Lovely Lacewings

November 2010

Friend or Foe

I would like to know what this insect is. Some people have told me it is a wasp, others suggested a flying ant. It was easily 10 cm long and 7cm wide with the wings. Is it dangerous?

 

Answer

lacewing

As the weather warms up in Brisbane residents may notice these odd-looking insects attracted to outside lights at night.  They are called lacewings and although they look a bit like a dragonfly or a wasp, lacewings and their cousins, the antlions belong to their own insect order, Neuroptera.  As adults, members of this group have chewing mouthparts, two even-sized pairs of clear wings and relatively long antenna. However, the larvae are stout, wingless and equipped with an enormous pair of nippers giving them the overall appearance of a miniature crocodile.  Lacewings are harmless to humans but both adults and larvae are voracious predators of smaller insects.  Gardeners love to have lacewings around because many species feed on aphids and scale insects.  Some species are so effective at controlling pest insects that they are bred commercially as biocontrol agents for horticulturalists.

This particular species, sometimes called the Giant Orange Lacewing (Nymphes myrmeleonides) is quite large and can have a wingspan of up to 9cm.  Many people will be familiar with the horseshoe shaped clusters of white eggs on silk stilts which the females lay on leaves, bark and even on the sides of houses.  By laying the eggs on stilts, the female ensures that her eggs are out of reach of foraging ants which will scurry around the base of the stilts without releasing the bounty above.

Lacewing eggs Eggs

Neuropteran larva Larvae

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