Friday, August 27, 2010

Dobsonfly is not a Fly

Dobsonfly- click to enlarge
When is a "fly" not a fly? When its name runs together, such as dobsonfly, mayfly, dragonfly, etc.  True flies including mosquitoes and gnats are distinguished by a single pair of wings.  Their common names are always separated such as house fly or fruit fly.
A News-Leader MDC article in July discussed the Dobsonfly (remember, it is not a true fly).  I had just identified one of these which had landed on my truck.  It is uncommon to see these adults which do not eat and live for only a few days.  They are five inches long nose to wing tips which extend far beyond the tip of the abdomen.
The adult male has impressive pincers used to grasp the female during mating.  They are so long that they don't have the leverage to pinch your fingers.  Not so for the female, whose short pointed pincers can hurt you.
Hellgrammite- Wikipedia
Dobsonfly larvae, called hellgrammites, are commonly found in streams and river bottoms and are beloved by stream fishermen.  These primitive looking creatures also come with a set of impressive pincers.  They live up to four years, going through molts and reaching up to four inches in length.  They are apparently considered a delicacy by trout and smallmouth bass and therefore of interest to the fishing set.
The hellgrammite breathes with gills along its sides and lives off of stream creatures which it grabs with its powerful pincers.  Rural children had a measure of bravery. It was tested by putting a finger under a rock and pulling out a pinching hellgrammite before pulling it off with the other hand.  Finally the hellgrammite crawls out of the water to pupate, forming the cocoon in which it will survive the winter.  Come spring, the Dobsonfly will emerge to resume the cycle.

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