Entomology (Study of Bugs)/mystery bug

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Question
unknown insect
unknown insect  

unknown insect 2
unknown insect 2  
Would you please look at this insect and help me identify it.  I found three of these on a greenway next to the Catawaba River after a big storm passed through on April 20, 2015, approx. 9:00AM.  The location is Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA.  Taken with my iPhone the bug appeared to be approx. 3 inches long and crawling across the asphalt path towards the natural area on the side.  I called it a beetle gator as it appeared to have a beetle head and a very small alligator body but with many legs.  I had three dogs on leashes in the other hand and I apologize about the quality of the image.

Answer
Hi, Kathleen:

That is an outstanding description.  So evocative, in fact, that I knew what you were talking about even before I saw your images.

The insect is the larva of a dobsonfly, Corydalus cornutus .  The larvae are known as "hellgrammites," and are a favorite fishing bait for anglers. They live in fast-flowing streams and rivers where they prey on other invertebrates.  This one is now looking for a place to dig down and change into a pupa.  Here's more about them:

http://bugguide.net/node/view/4873

Thank you for sharing your discovery, and no apologies needed for picture quality. :-)

Eric

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Eric R. Eaton

Expertise

I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.

Experience

Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Publications
Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Education/Credentials
Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

Awards and Honors
One of the top 50 experts in all categories for AllExperts.com, 2009.

Past/Present Clients
Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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