About Ada Szczepaniec

Assistant Professor and Extension Entomologist at South Dakota State University. Transplant from Poland, via Maryland and Texas

Mother of Lacewings (just short of fire-breathing but still quite ferocious)

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Adult lacewing (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae) (Photo: A.S.)

Mother of Lacewings (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae), is the adult of green lacewing. I am a huge fan of The Song of Ice and Fire series so I couldn’t resist the play on words. This beautiful insect is very common, and you’ve probably seen it flapping around at dusk. The Polish common name for it is actually ‘Golden-eye’, and if you ever get a chance to look at it closely you will see that it indeed has large golden eyes! It has four long wings with extensive venation, and green slender body. It’s probably a little under an inch in length.

Beautiful as the adults of these insects are, it is actually the larvae that are the real beasts worth learning about. Lacewings go through complete metamorphosis so the immature forms differ a lot from the adults. Immature lacewings lack antennae, have somewhat stocky built and long legs that allow them to move fast. It is their sickle-shaped mouthparts, however, that are the coolest feature of these insects. Lacewings are vicious predators always on the move in search of prey. One of their favorites are aphids, soft-bodied insects that attack many crops and garden plants. Once a lacewing larva encounters an unsuspecting aphid, it grabs hold of it using its powerful mouthparts, injects strong enzymes into the aphid to dissolve its contents and then proceeds to suck the aphid dry. Some lacewing species have psychopath-like tendencies, and fling dry, empty bodies of their victims on their backs to create a clever disguise. It’s a bug-eat-bug world out there, no doubt!

Lacewing larva (Photo: A.S.)

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