Monday, May 25, 2009


The order Neuroptera is less well-known than the beetles, butterflies and moths, plant bugs, and flies. It contains soft-bodied insects with four membranous wings that have many crossveins and extra branches of the longitudinal veins. The name comes from the Greek word "neuron," meaning sinew, and "ptera" meaning wings. Hence, they are also known as the nerve-wing or net-wing order. The most common Neuropteran is the lacewing (suborder Planipennia, family Chrysopidae), which eats aphids and is usually a pretty green with delicate translucent wings. A previous entry described snakeflies (order Neuroptera, suborder Raphidioptera). I now bring you the antlion.

Neuroptera; Planipennia; Myrmeleontoidea; Myrmeleontidae; Dendroleon obsoletus
Common Name: Spotted Winged Antlion

The antlion begins its life as a rather scary looking larvae that digs a cone-like pit in the ground and waits for ants to fall into its waiting jaws. The larvae are also called "Doodlebugs" and have sicklelike jaws. Eventually, it pupates into a four-winged adult. The above-pictured antlion was found in Virginia, and is most common on the east coast of the United States. Antlions are the largest family of the order Neuroptera, and other species are common throughout the country. They differ from damselflies in that they are softer-bodied, have relatively long, clubbed antennae (which fell off on the above-pictured specimen), and very different wing venation. They are rather feeble fliers, and are attracted to lights. There are 13 genera containing 92 species.

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