Panorpa nuptialis Gerstaecker, 1863
Diagnosis: This species is part of a group of species with males that have very short hypovalves, quite long 7th and 8th abdominal segments, and a tapered and apically rounded 9th tergite. Females have no posterior projections to the genital plate. Panorpa nuptialis stands out from all other North American species of Panorpa because of its large size, bright yellow and black banded wings, and bright red body. Male dististyles are also extremely long, about 50% longer than the basistyles, and only slightly curved.
Distribution – Geographical: This species is found from western Alabama westward to south-central Texas and northward to southeastern Kansas and central Missouri.
Distribution – Temporal: Panorpa nuptialis emerge as adults from September to November, and early December in the southern part of its range with a peak emergence in October. Carpenter (1931) reported one collection in mid-July in southeastern Kansas.
Ecology: This species prefers more open, sunlit habitat than most North American species of Panorpa, such as field crops, meadows, pastures and open woodland.
Biology: In captivity adults feed on dead house flies. Eggs are laid in crevices in the soil and swell by about 35% before hatching. Hatching takes place after about eight days. The first instar lasts about four days. Second and third instars develop in four to five days. The active phase of the fourth instar lasts about two weeks. Then the larva undergoes a brief period of about four days of relative inactivity and cessation of feeding during which it seeks out a place in the soil for a pupal cell. The prepupa then remains dormant and inactive for several months, until early spring (spring generation) or mid-summer (fall generation). The prepupa then molts to a pupa that lies quiescent for about 12 days. Then coloration begins to appear and the adult emerges about 19 to 21 days after pupation..
Notes: This species can be readily found in the boot heel region of southeastern Missouri up to the banks of the Mississippi River. However, despite much searching on the other side of the river in Illinois, scarcely two kilometers away, P. nuptialis has never been encountered there. The Mississippi River appears to be a strong barrier in this part of its range.
The Latin word “nuptialis” refers to marriage. It is unclear as to what Gerstaecker was referring to when he named this species.
Byers, G.W. 1963. The life history of Panorpa nuptialis (Mecoptera: Panorpidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 56:142-149.
-----. 1993. Autumnal Mecoptera of southeastern United States. University of Kansas Science Bulletin, 55(2):57-96.
Carpenter, F.M. 1931. Revision of the Nearctic Mecoptera. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. 72:205-277.
Gerstaecker, A. 1863. Ueber einige neue Planipennien aus den Familien der Hemerobiiden und Panorpiden. Stettiner entomologische Zeitung, 24:168-188, no figs.