The Dobsonfly

dobsonfly21 The Dobsonfly

Like so many other summer night barbecues, the one I attended the other night was crashed by an unexpected nocturnal pest. This particular night though, the guest was over four inches long, and had a six inch wing span!

Falling into a category of giant bugs large enough to be one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Dobsonfly is one creepy bug guaranteed to clear your deck of guests in shear seconds!

Much to the alarm of the men grilling our dinner, this huge bug dropped out of the sky, and landed near them on the back of one of the deck chairs.  Never having seen anything like it, they quickly caged it under a lacrosse stick, and offered peeks of it to the rest of the guest as we arrived, to see if anyone could identify it.  Generally, the tomboy in me loves a bug identification challenge, and I gave a quick search on the usual online bug guides for ideas as to what the insect could be. When my initial guesses as to it’s species were wrong, my sister and a friend worked with me to herd the bug into a large piece of Tupperware, so I could have a pest expert I knew identify it for me.  It is with absolutely no regret that I tell you that the bug in Tupperware went directly into the freezer, to preserve it intact, until I could bring it to work with me for an ID!

After scrolling though countless bug photos on,  to try and figure out what exactly we had flying above the rooftops at night, I stumbled onto the photo’s and information about Dobsonflies.  Apparently, what we had caught at our barbecue was a curious male Dobsonfly, who must have been attracted to the lights on the deck.  These insects live most of their lives underwater, and only mature into their adult flying form, to mate and die in the late spring, and early summer.  Being a nocturnal insect with poor flying skills, they don’t tend to make themselves familiar with people, and generally seek mates close to the water sources that they themselves grew up in.  Both the males and females of this species have impressive looking pincers that they may try to intimidate nosy humans, or predators with, during their quest for a mate. The males are incapable of biting, and potentially of even eating when in their adult form, due to their extra large mandibles.  The females, however, are capable of drawing human blood  As a last resort when threatened, Dobsonflies can emit a foul smelling anal spray. Luckily for me, my particular bug was in Tupperware, before the thought occured to him! These insects are considered neither beneficial, or damaging, in their adult stage of development, as they make little impact on their environment in their single-minded pursuit for mates.

There are several varieties of Dobsonfly, across the USA, and if you happen across one of them, the best thing to do with it is to simply leave it where it is, and let it carry on with it’s business.  Happily, they bless us with their presence out of the water only a few weeks per year!

As glad as I am to know what this bug is, and what it’s motivations are at late night parties, I hope this is the last one I bump into for a long time!

Your thoughts: Has anyone else run into this species? Have you found any unusual insects around your yard that you had trouble identifying?

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  1. kirstie says:

    I have come across this bug today at work. was looking out the window daydreaming wishing i was outside when i saw something on the one plant, i was like holy cow there is a big bug outside. my boss did not believe me when i estamated the length with my hands. I went outside to take a picture with my phone. then we decided to catch it between to paper cups which was not hard at all, then we took it out of the spiders web that it was tangled in. lucky for him this little pest got to live. we shook him out of the cup to get a closer look. was really amazed at the pinchers when we left work the little critter most have flown away probably happy that we saved him to live a few more days as they only live about 7 days into adulthood. had to investigate the net when i got home and found out it was a dobsonfly! glad that as big as its pinchers are it would not pinch me!

  2. Amy says:

    It’s good to know a bug that creepy looking is pretty harmless isn’t it!

  3. Todd Heusler says:

    I found one of the giants at my campsite stuck to my lantern it had gotten burnt to it saw those freaky pinchers and was awestruck to bad it didnt survive.

  4. mary sweeney says:

    i say this bug the other day, a child in st. albans, vermont found it, he told us what it was and that he found it on his deck. it looks prehistoric to me….but very, very interesting. i have never seen one before.

  5. amy says:

    hello….after many searches and calls i found out i have a DOBSONFLY!!! I live in Ontario Canada, is this common in this area?

  6. Lashawna Duckworth says:

    yes my uncle has a female dobsonfly just chilling in his screen door! and I guess it doesn’t help that he has giant barrels full of water near his door too. thank you for clearing up this giant scary bug! no worries about me messing with it lol

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