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Pronunciation:  [Ra-PHIDI-op-ter-a]

Common Name: Snakeflies

Greek Origins of Name:  Rhaphidioptera is derived from the Greek “raphis” for needle and “pteron” for wing.  Loosely interpreted as “flying needles” the name refers to females of some species that have long, slender ovipositors.

Spot ID Key Characters:

  1. Elongated prothorax
  2. Numerous crossveins near leading edge of wing
  3. Antennae prominently visible

Spot ID Common Families:

Multiple families; none in the eastern U.S


Holometabola i.e. complete metamorphosis (egg, larva, pupa, adult)


Raphidoptera has one extant suborder (Raphidiomorpha).  There are 2 families and about 260 species worldwide.


Common worldwide, but not present in eastern North America.

Life History and Ecology:

Snakefly larvae live in leaf litter or under bark and catch aphids or other soft-bodied prey.   In most cases, the adults of these insects are also predators — the non-predatory species usually feed on nectar, pollen, or honeydew.

As adults, raphidiopterans have two pairs of membranous wings with an extensive pattern of veins and crossveins.   At rest, the wings are folded flat over the abdomen or held tent-like over the body.   Most species are rather weak fliers.

Appearance of Immatures:

  1. Head well-developed with ocelli, antennae, and chewing or pinching mouthparts
  2. Three pairs of thoracic legs; tarsi 1-segmented; claws paired

Appearance of Adults:

  1. Elongated prothorax
  2. Extensive branching of venation in all wings; crossveins abundant especially along leading edge (costal margin)
  3. Front and hind wing membranous, similar in size
  4. Antennae filiform, multisegmented
  5. Chewing mouthparts

Major Families:

There are two extant families in Raphidioptera:

  • Raphidiidae (Raphidid Snakeflies)
  • Inocelliidae (Inocellid Snakeflies)

Fun Facts:

  • Snakeflies are relatively common in the fossil record of the Cretaceous Period.   The order has declined in abundance ever since.
  • Snakefly pupae, unlike those of most other orders, are quite active.   They resemble adults with short wing pads.
  • Most extant species live in the higher altitudes of temperate climates.   They are not found in the tropics.

This stamp was issued by Bulgaria in 1993.    The species Illustrated has the redundant scientific name of Xanthostigma xanthostigma.