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(order Mecoptera), any of several species of insects characterized by chewing mouthparts at the tip of an elongated beak; long, many-segmented, threadlike antennae; and two pairs of membranous, net-veined wings that may be transparent, darkly spotted, or banded. The larva resembles a caterpillar; pupation occurs in the soil. Both larva and adult feed on dead animals, especially insects, and sometimes on plants.