There are 3 stages in the dobsonfly, the larva, pupae, and adult. In the larval stage, the first 7 abdominal segments have large tufts of filamentous gills at the base of each lateral gill process. (Arnett, 1985). The larvae are able to breathe in and out of water by having both tracheal gills and spiracles. They also have two prolegs at the tip of the abdomen that allow them to anchor themselves to the rocks. The adults have wings and long antennae and are easily distinguished by their large size. The hind wings are broader than the front wings.  Males have large sickle-like mandibles which are an adaption for reproduction. The female mandibles are the same size as the larvae and are capable of drawing blood.   Larvae feed on soft-bodied insects and the adults do not feed in nature as the males live only about 3 days and females live only 8 to 10 days (Hall, 2008). The ocelli also cause these flies to be attracted to light and can be found especially in areas light during the night (Arnett, 1985).



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