Plecoptera: Stoneflies

(from the Greek: plekos = plaited + ptera = wings)

Stoneflies are small- to medium-sized insects with 2 pairs of membranous wings held flat over the back when not in use. The frontStonefly wings are long and narrow, and the hind wings are enlarged and folded fanwise like grasshopper wings. Both wing pairs have many cross-veins. They have chewing mouthparts and long antennae. The abdomen ends in 2 short, thread-like tails. Metamorphosis is incomplete, and the aquatic nymphs (naiads)live under rocks in fast-flowing streams. The adults usually do not range far from water.

Plecoptera are not of great economic importance except as a source of food for fishes. The naiads are sometimes collected and sold as fish bait, but they are hard to keep alive in captivity.

Some species, called winter stoneflies, are among the first winged insects to appear in the year. They can be found clinging to bridges in late winter or very early spring. They are black or brown.