Scorpionflies look something like long-faced wasps. At rest, wings are usually held swept back in a V position and commonly are golden, clear, or light-colored with a black-banded or black-spotted pattern. Body color is commonly rusty or yellowish-brown. The male’s abdomen tip resembles the stinger of a scorpion. This scary-looking, bulbous, upcurled “tail” is completely harmless and is used only as a clasper in mating. The female’s abdomen tip tapers to a point and has 2 small appendages (cerci).
Larvae resemble caterpillars, with a hardened head, 3 pairs of legs on the thorax segments, and 8 pairs of short, leglike prolegs on the first 8 pairs of abdominal segments.
Similar insect groups: Neuropterans (net-winged insects: lacewings, alderflies, mantidflies, antlions, owlflies) don’t have the long face, and their wing venation usually includes a multitude of costal veins (along leading edge). Dipterans (true flies: robber flies, crane flies, house flies, and so on), have only one pair of wings. Hymenopterans (ants, bees, wasps, ichneumons, and so on) don’t have the long face, and their hindwings are usually smaller than forewings.