Giant insect from the Jurassic Age discovered in the US Walmart

Giant lacy

The specimen is the first of its kind recorded in eastern North America in over fifty years – and the first record of the species in the state’s history (Photo: Michael Skvarla/Penn State)

A typical trip with milk to Walmart turned into an important moment for Michal Skwarlawho noticed a giant insect from the Jurassic Age that had attached itself to the side of the building.

It turned out that the insect had not been seen in eastern North America for at least half a century.

Fortunately, Skvarla studies insects, so he decided to take home a bug that had a wingspan of almost two inches.

The creature that has now been identified as the giant networt – Polystoechotes punctata – was abundant in the time of the dinosaurs but has recently disappeared from large swaths of North America.

While Skvarla found the insect in 2012, it wasn’t until eight years later that he showed it to his students in an online class. Then they realized that the worm was a rare giant networm.

Walmart building

An insect was spotted attached to the wall of a Walmart building in Arkansas (Image credit: Google)

Skvarla, who is now director of the Insect Identification Laboratory at Penn State University, recently co-authored a paper on the discovery.

“I remember it clearly because I was going to Walmart to get milk and I saw this huge insect on the side of the building,” Skvarla said in a report on his university’s website.

“I thought it looked interesting, so I picked it up and did the rest of my shopping holding it between my fingers. I came home, installed it, and quickly forgot about it for almost a decade.”

Skvarla, who made the discovery when he was a graduate student at the University of Arkansas, said he mistakenly labeled the specimen in his personal collection as an “antlion,” an insect with similar characteristics.


It was first confused with Antlion, which had similar characteristics (Image: gailhampshire from Cradley, Malvern, UK via Wikimedia Commons)

It wasn’t until the Covid-19 pandemic that the giant lace found time to shine. In the fall of 2020, with the world locked down, Skvarla was teaching Entomology 432: Biodiversity and Insect Evolution at Penn State.

He taught a lab course via Zoom with students remotely following him on borrowed microscopes and used his personal collection of insects as sample samples.

“We all realized collectively that the insect was not what it was labeled and that it was in fact a very rare giant networm,” said Codey Mathis, a PhD student in entomology at Penn State.

“I still remember that feeling. It was so satisfying to know that the excitement is not waning, the miracle is not lost. Here we made a real discovery in an online lab course.”

For additional confirmation, Skvarla and his colleagues performed molecular DNA analyzes on the sample.

After its true identity was confirmed, the insect was safely placed in the collections of the Frost Entomological Museum in Penn State, where scientists and students will have access to it for further study.

It remains a mystery how the insect appeared outside Walmart. The fact that it was found on the side of a well-lit building at night suggests it was likely attracted to the lights and may have flown at least a few hundred meters from where it came from, Skvarla explained.

“It may have been 100 years since he’d been in this area – and it’s been years since he’s been spotted anywhere near it. The closest place it was found was 1,200 miles away, so it’s very unlikely it traveled that far,” Skvarla said.

The giant lacewing was once abundant throughout North America, but was assumed to have been wiped out from the eastern regions by the 1950s. He has been depicted as resembling a cross between a fly and a moth, with mottled wings that he holds like a tent over his body.

The rediscovery of a rare species in the urban area of ​​Fayetteville, Arkansas, gives scientists hope that entire populations will be buried in the Ozark Mountains.

MORE: Scientists discover pollen-covered insects dating back 280,000,000 years

MORE: Crops are increasingly being eaten by insects due to climate change

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *