Owlflies are popularly known as “ugly ducklings” of insects. They sit and appear forward to prey to stray in between their oversize mandibles, seizing them and feeding on the body liquids within. 

Owlflies seem to be dragonflies outfitted with butterfly heads. Dragonfly-shaped, they have long, clubbed antennae and big, bulging eyes. Some rest with their abdomens angled off from the perch, making their bodies appear as twigs.

Owlfly on a husk  Owlflies

You can distinguish the two genera in our area by observing the eyes: Those in genus Ululodes have a groove or crease in each eye; those in genus Ascaloptynx lack the groove. Then, if you’ve found the latter, you recognize the species, too, since there’s only one owlfly during this genus in North America, A. appendiculate, an exquisite insect with gold highlights.

The larvae are flattened, oval, segmented, grey, brown, or black insects with a certain head and a pair of massive caliper-like mandibles that are usually held wide open. They offer the impression of being plenty like antlion larvae, but their bodies have a fringe of little finlike extensions along the two sides. Some species glue detritus to their backs to hide from predators.

Scientific Information

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Neuroptera

Suborder: Myrmeleontiformia

Family: Ascalaphidae

Habitat and Conservation

Adult owlflies are mostly crepuscular or nocturnal. Many have an interest in lights at night. Like most 

insects, these creatures are most active during summer. Larvae hatch from eggs laid on twigs but move to the underside, where they hide in leaf litter and other protected places and hunt by sitting quietly with their jaws open, looking forward to a hapless prey item to go by.


Owlfly on a piece of grass
Owlfly resting

Although they are not related to dragonflies, they share a close resemblance with them. Owlflies are predators that snatch insects as they fly through the air just like eagles. The larvae are predators, too, on the underside of leaf litter, using their powerful little jaws to capture insects and other tiny animals.

Life Cycle

Female owlflies lay eggs in an exceedingly line on twigs of trees. Along with rounded, fertile eggs, a batch of smaller, “trophic” eggs is laid nearby which are not allowed to hatch. They function because the primary meal for her hungry hatchlings will prevent them from eating each other. They’re sticky and whorl around the stem type of a fence, so they’ll additionally prevent ants or other predators.

The young larvae move to the underside, where they hunt, eat, grow, and molt. They pupate, in a very very silky cocoon, in leaf litter.

Human Connections

Most people figure that any insect that devours other insects is beneficial.

People who appreciate insects as they enjoy seeing owlflies, which are bizarre, magnificent, harmless creatures not commonly seen.

The cognomen, Ascalaphidae, comes from mythology, where a fellow called Ascalaphus was a caretaker of the orchard within the Underworld. He witnessed Persephone eating pomegranate seeds while she was abducted by Hades, and he snitches on her to the alternative deities.

They were on the purpose of releasing her from the Underworld, but once they know she had eaten the seeds, they force her to spend about half the year within the Underworld. Her mother, Demeter (goddess of the harvest), was so sad about her daughter’s incarceration she made the world unfruitful annually during the time Persephone was gone. Out of rage, Demeter cursed Ascalaphus and buried him under a boulder.

Later, when someone freed him of the curse, Demeter converted it into an owl.

Ecosystem Connections

Australian Owlfly
Owlfly climbing on a stick

At all life stages, owlflies are predators and thus help control populations of the insects they prey on.Their actions such as mimicry, camouflaging, the larvae’s gluing detritus on their backs, and guarding action of the so-called trophic eggs give us a gentle reminder that owlflies are preyed upon, too.Most members of the owlfly family sleep in tropical regions.

Other behaviors and adaptations

They are the strongest fliers amongst insects within the animal order, with adults of some species active during the day, although most Australian species are seen in the dark after they’re drawn to artificial lighting. The adults of the various species release a robust somewhat noxious smell after they’re handled, presumably to discourage birds and other predators.

Internal links:

Planthopper- the foe of the paddy field-Erakina


Killer tobacco plant: a new entrant in the insectivorous kingdom- Erakina

External links:

Read more about Six-legged Ducklings

By:- Arpit Mangal

Date:- 23/06/22

Tags: animals, birds

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