Insect found outside Arkansas Walmart identified as Jurassic-era insect

An insect found outside a Walmart in 2012 was identified as a Jurassic-Era insect, the giant...
An insect found outside a Walmart in 2012 was identified as a Jurassic-Era insect, the giant lacewing.(Michael Skvarla / Penn State)
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 8:43 PM EST
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Penn. (Gray News) – A giant insect found outside an Arkansas Walmart is setting historic records.

The Polystoechotes punctata, or giant lacewing, was reportedly found in 2012 by Michael Skvarla, who was a doctoral student at the University of Arkansas at the time. Skvarla said he misidentified the insect at the time and didn’t discover its true identity until 2020 when he taught an online course based on his personal insect collection.

Skvarla, who is now the director of Penn State’s Insect Identification Lab, recently co-authored a paper about this discovery in the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Skvarla taught Entomology 432: Insect Biodiversity and Evolution at Penn State. While teaching the class over Zoom, Skvarla said he used his own collection of insects as specimen examples.

Drawing attention to the features of the giant lacewing, Skvarla said they didn’t match up to the “antlion” label he had originally given the insect. He determined it looked more like a lacewing.

Skvarla said the giant lacewing has a wingspan of about 50 millimeters, which is large for an insect and was a clue that the specimen was not an antlion as he had first believed. Skvarla worked with his class to identify the insect, and the discovery was made live over Zoom.

Skvarla’s discovery of the giant lacewing is reportedly the first of its kind recorded in North America in over 50 years and the first of its kind ever recorded in Akansas.

The reported Jurassic-era insect used to be widespread across North America but mysteriously disappeared completely from the continent by the 1950s.

Skvarla said he has deposited the giant lacewing in the collections of the Frost Entomological Museum at Penn State, where scientists and students will be able to access it for additional research purposes.