I want to see one of those! So I said at the end of an article about scorpion flies. And I did! A rare chance of getting what you ask for. What’s more, they proved to be much like the proverbial bus, for I saw two in the space of a week.
Snakeflies are one of those animals that you can’t quite believe really exists, especially in a country as supposedly tame and un-wild as Britain. They have a kite-shaped, smooth head, with projecting eyes at the widest point, which narrows to a long, slender, giraffe-like neck. Their body is broader again, mostly concealed by the many veins in their intricately beautiful transparent wings. Finally, female snakeflies have an extraordinarily long ovipositor that might be taken for a ‘stinger’ by the uninitiated.
Put all the bits together and they almost look like an assortment of leftovers from the insect factory. It’s a fabulous beast that is outside of our everyday experience of wildlife, in part because of their bizarre appearance, but their unfamiliarity is also due to their tree-top dwelling places. Snakeflies spend most of their lives in an alternate, leafy realm, and seldom enter our world.
I was fortunate to find one sat quite still on a low-growing cow parsley flower, and a second a few days later in much the same situation. It just goes to show that almost anything turns up on umbellifers, if you look long and hard enough.