Now, this rare insect has set historic records. The giant lacewing (Polystoechotes punctata) was discovered in a Walmart branch in Arkansas. This instance is the first in over 50 years that the insect was found in eastern North America. Additionally, the lacewing is the first record of the species in the state.
Initially widespread in North America, the giant lacewing disappeared from the area by the 1950s. No one knew the exact reason why this Jurassic-Era insect extirpated from North America.
The thing is, the journey that lead to the discovery of the giant lacewing was quite interesting. Michael Skvarla, the director of Penn State's Insect Identification Lab actually found this insect in 2012.
However, he misidentified it back then and was only able to rectify the error while teaching an online course based on his insect collection in 2020. "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."
Image credit: Michael Skvarla / Penn State