A frightful image of a bizarre-looking owlfly larva has gone viral and has folks talking after being shared on Twitter. The account “Weird Animals” prides itself in showing off members of the animal kingdom that are a bit off the beaten path. “Posting photos of amazing species you’ve never heard of,” the account’s bio boasts. “Highlighting the wonders of evolution & the extraordinary diversity of life.”
A recent post is no exception. “The terrifying owlfly larva,” is how the account captioned the striking image. The little guy looks like something straight out of Star Trek. The insect has multiple, bulbous eyes, antennae that resemble horns, and an exoskeleton that looks invulnerable to phasers.
The terrifying owlfly larva. pic.twitter.com/A3DNtGnXB5— Weird Animals (@Weird_AnimaIs) November 27, 2022
Since being posted on Sunday, the image already has hundreds of retweets and dozens of comments. One user admired the animal’s obvious evolutionary advantage. “Everything about this guy has evolved so that stuff doesn’t touch it and just leaves it alone.” However, they also couldn’t help but want to pick the weird creature up. “Here all my dum dum caveman brain can think is “hehehe I wan touch it,” they quipped.
Another user seemed to agree, imagining what the owlfly larva must be thinking when they encounter a predator. “Don’t even think about trying to eat me, you stupid birds,” they wrote. Still, other users were simply straight-up disturbed by the picture of the creature. “Buddy you can’t just drop this without context, this close to midnight, and expect people to not have nightmares,” they joked. Another was even more to the point. “He’s got horns!!”
The owlfly larva ends up looking like a dragonfly
Owlflies and dragonflies may look similar, but owlflies have longer, clubbed antennae while dragonflies’ antennae are shorter and resemble bristles. Additionally, all but one species of Ascalaphidae have long antennae. Another way to tell the difference is by looking at their eyes–owlflies tend to have larger ones. Finally, if you take a closer look at their wings, you’ll see that the venation on an owfly’s wing is more reticulate than that of a dragonfly.
Owlflies of the family Ululodinae, such as Ululodes, have eyes that are divided into multiple sections and typically come out only during crepuscular hours (dusk or dawn). Owlfies get their name from this similarity to owls. There are around 450 different species of owlfly located worldwide in warm temperate and tropical areas.
Not only are adult owlflies adept at flying and efficiently catching other insects in midair for food, but their larvae are also predators. Therefore, these creatures play an important role in maintaining a natural ecological balance by helping to keep the population of harmful pest insects under control. Many adult New World species are active during sunset and can often be seen near lights. During the day, they rest on stems and twigs with their body pressed against the stem.