Giant Lacewing Rediscovered After 8 Years Misidentified – A Mystery Unlocked During the Pandemic

In 2012, Michael Skvarla, director of Penn State’s Insect Identification Lab, was walking into a Walmart in Fayetteville, Arkansas to get milk when he spotted a huge insect on the side of the building.[0] Eight years later, while teaching an online course based on his personal insect collection, Skvarla realized he had misidentified the insect as an antlion when, in fact, it was a super-rare giant lacewing.[1]

By the 1950s, the giant lacewing, which had once been widespread across North America, had been mysteriously eradicated from eastern North America.[2] This discovery suggests there may be relic populations of this large, Jurassic-Era insect yet to be discovered.[3] Skvarla and his colleagues performed a DNA analysis of the specimen to confirm its identity as a giant lacewing, which is now in the Frost Entomological Museum at Penn State for access for future research purposes.[4]

It was hypothesized by experts that the vanishing of the insect could have been caused by a rise in light pollution or even the prevention of forest fires in eastern North America.[5] The mystery remains as to how the insect arrived on the exterior of a Walmart, although the fact that it was found on the side of a well-lit building at night suggests that it was likely attracted to the lights and may have flown at least a few hundred meters from where it originated.[6]

The discovery of the giant lacewing was made while Skvarla was teaching a fourth-year entomology course at Penn State on Zoom after the world went into lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] The students got to work comparing the features of the specimen and realized it was a giant lacewing, not an antlion as Skvarla had previously labeled it. Louis Nastasi, a doctoral candidate studying entomology at the university, said it was an experience he didn’t expect to have in a lab course.[7]

The giant lacewing has a wingspan of roughly 50 millimeters, which is quite large for an insect.[4] 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.[8] It had been 100 years since its last sighting in the area, and years since it had been seen anywhere close.[9]

0. “Researcher stumbles upon ‘super rare' insect at Arkansas Walmart that dates back to Jurassic period” Fox News, 2 Mar. 2023,

1. “Huge Jurassic-era bug found outside Arkansas Walmart in ‘super-rare’ discovery” Global News, 1 Mar. 2023,

2. “Jurassic-era insect discovered at Arkansas Walmart” Yahoo Life, 1 Mar. 2023,

3. “Rare Jurassic-era bug found at Arkansas Walmart” BBC, 1 Mar. 2023,

4. “Giant Jurassic-era insect found in Arkansas — at a Walmart!” Study Finds, 2 Mar. 2023,

5. “Giant bug found at an Arkansas Walmart identified as a Jurassic-era insect” FOX 29 Philadelphia, 2 Mar. 2023,

6. “Jurassic-era insect rediscovered outside a WALMART in Arkansas” msnNOW, 2 Mar. 2023,

7. “Mystery arises over ‘Jurassic-era' insect discovered in Walmart” Interesting Engineering, 1 Mar. 2023,

8. “Huge Jurassic-era bug found outside supermarket in ‘super-rare’ discovery” Daily Star, 2 Mar. 2023,

9. “Rare insect found at Arkansas Walmart sets historic record, prompts mystery” Pennsylvania State University, 27 Feb. 2023,

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