Giant Flying Bug Found at Arkansas Walmart Is Really a 'Super-Rare' Insect From Jurassic Era
A giant bug found on the wall of an Arkansas Walmart turns out to be a very rare insect not seen in the area for decades.
Michael Skvarla, director of Penn State University's Insect Identification Lab, grabbed the insect in 2012, as he was on his way to buy milk. He took it home, thinking it was a fairly common flying bug known as an antlion.
Turns out he was wrong.
The insect is a polystoechotes punctata, or a giant lacewing, and is the first of its kind recorded in eastern North America in over 50 years, and the first ever found in Arkansas, the university said.
"This discovery suggests there may be relic populations of this large, Jurassic-Era insect yet to be discovered," Penn State said in a news release.
Skvarla didn't realize he had misidentified the creature until he was teaching an online course in 2020, which featured his private insect collection.
“We were watching what Dr. Skvarla saw under his microscope and he’s talking about the features and then just kinda stops,” said Codey Mathis, a doctoral candidate in entomology at Penn State. “We all realized together that the insect was not what it was labeled, and was in fact a super-rare giant lacewing," the student said.
"Here we were making a true discovery in the middle of an online lab course," he said.
Skvarla recalls the day he scooped up the bug.
“I remember it vividly, because I was walking into Walmart to get milk and I saw this huge insect on the side of the building,” said Skvarla, who was a doctoral student at the University of Arkansas at the time. “I thought it looked interesting, so I put it in my hand and did the rest of my shopping with it between my fingers. I got home, mounted it, and promptly forgot about it for almost a decade.”
Scientists think the insect may have disappeared from the area because of pollution and the rising use of artificial light.
"The fact that this insect was spotted in a region that it hasn't been seen in over half a century tells us something more broadly about the environment," Skvarla said. Most notably that there may be other insects waiting to be discovered that have re-emerged in habitats where they had previously vanished, he said.
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