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Protohermes grandis.jpg
Protohermes grandis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Megaloptera
Family: Corydalidae
Subfamily: Corydalinae

9, see text

A dobsonfly is any insect of the subfamily Corydalinae, part of the megalopteran family Corydalidae.[1] The 9 genera of dobsonflies are distributed across the Neotropic and Indomalaya ecozones, and one species is known from South Africa.[1]


Both sexes of most species have long mandibles. Though the mandibles of females are shorter, they are stronger and can be used to bite.[2] Males can have very long, curving mandibles that look like scimitars. These are likely secondary sex characteristics used for competition or to attract females.[3]


The larvae of insects in the two Corydalidae subfamilies, the dobsonflies and fishflies, are commonly called hellgrammites. Dobsonflies spend most of their lives as hellgrammites, living underwater for as long as 2 to 3 years. Hellgrammites are wormlike in appearance and are predators, catching aquatic prey items such as tadpoles and very small fish. They emerge from the water to pupate on land over one winter and spring, and then emerge as adults. Adults live for a few days. They mate, lay eggs, and soon die. Most dobsonflies do not eat at all during their short adult stage.[4]

Adults are attracted to light and so are often observed flying around lights during the night.[2]


Hellgrammites are used as fishing bait, especially for bass and trout. Fishing lures shaped like hellgrammites are commercially available.[2]


Genera include:[1]


The origin of the word "dobsonfly" is unclear. John Henry Comstock used the term in reference to these insects in his 1897 book Insect Life, but did not explain it. He also mentioned that anglers used the word "hellgrammite" for the aquatic larvae they used as bait, but the origin of this term is also unknown.[2]



  1. ^ a b c Contreras-Ramos, A. (2011). Phylogenetic review of dobsonflies of the subfamily Corydalinae and the genus Corydalus Latreille (Megaloptera: Corydalidae). Zootaxa 2862 1-38.
  2. ^ a b c d Turpin, T. Dobsonflies Look Vicious. Purdue Agriculture News Columns. Purdue Extension. August 8, 2013.
  3. ^ Cover, M. R. and V. H. Resh. (2008). Global diversity of dobsonflies, fishflies, and alderflies (Megaloptera; Insecta) and spongillaflies, nevrorthids, and osmylids (Neuroptera; Insecta) in freshwater. Hydrobiologia 595(1) 409-17.
  4. ^ Newton, B. Dobsonflies and Fishflies. Kentucky Insects. Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky.

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