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News picture Common green darner

 

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Bug of the Month: Golden-eyed lacewing

side view of golden lacewingCommon name: Golden-eyed lacewing

Latin name: Chrysopa oculata

Taxonomy:
Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Class Insecta
         Order Neuroptera
            Family Chrysopidae

 

Green lacewings in general

The order “Neuroptera” literally means “nerve-winged” insects and refers to the intricate patterns of veins on the wings of most lacewings. Lacewings in the family Chrysopidae are bright green to brownish-green. All green lacewings are predators when they are immature larvae (they are known as “aphid lions”), and while adults of some species may feed on nectar and pollen, they also eat small arthropods. In fact, some green lacewings are such efficient predators that they are used by gardeners and farmers to control aphids and other insect pests. There are approximately 85 species of green lacewings in North America.

golden-eyed lacewing side view, showing veins of wingsAlmost all green lacewings have the ability to “hear” with very tiny ears (tympanal organs) located at the base of their front wings. These ears allow green lacewings to hear the very high frequency cries of bats, and they respond with evasive movements such as downward nosedives (see Section 4.8 in Canard et al. 1984). As green lacewings are typically active at dusk and in the evening, when bats are also active, this is a useful tactic to avoid being eaten! Green lacewings can also communicate with each other through various methods, most commonly by vibrating their abdomen. The vibrations travel down through the lacewing’s legs to the substrate below (e.g., a leaf), and are picked up by other lacewings standing on the same substrate. The pattern of vibrations is unique to each species.

close-up of golden-eyed lacewing head, showing eyes & spotsHow to identify Golden-eyed lacewings

Despite its name, the golden-eyed lacewing is NOT the only green lacewing with golden eyes! There are several similar-looking species of green lacewings in our area, and without magnification it is difficult to tell them apart. If you are able to see the head up close, Chrysopa oculata has dark markings in front of and around the sides of the antennal bases, and two sets of spots/stripes running up over the head (see photo). Also, all the small antennal segments are pale in color (although there is a ring of dark color on the first segment up from the base). If humans could sense the pattern of the abdominal vibrations, identification would be much easier!

Where to find Golden-eyed lacewings on the Boston Harbor Islands

We have found golden-eyed lacewings on islands throughout Boston Harbor. They are typically found on low vegetation. We often see lacewings at night, when they are attracted to our moth light.

How Golden-eyed lacewings make a living

Like most green lacewings, golden-eyed lacewings lay their eggs on long stalks on the underside of leaves or twigs. This is thought to protect the eggs from predators and parasites. The larvae which hatch from the eggs are fierce predators on aphids and other soft-bodied arthropods (as are the adults). Larvae use their long, sharp jaws to pierce their prey and inject digestive enzymes, and then suck out the contents. There may be several generations produced over the growing season, and the winter is spent as a late-stage larva in a cocoon made of spun silk. If you pick up an adult golden-eyed lacewing, be prepared for the smelly liquid the lacewing secretes from glands in its thorax when it’s feeling threatened! These secretions may also serve to attract mates.

Where in the world Golden-eyed lacewings occur

Golden-eyed lacewings are native and common throughout most of North America north of Mexico.

To learn more about Golden-eyed lacewings (and lacewings in general)

On the web:

In print:

    Canard, M., Y. Séméria, and T.R. New. 1984. Biology of Chrysopidae. W. Junk Publishers. Boston. 294 pp.

    Henry, C.S. 1982. Reproductive and calling behaviour in two closely related, sympatric species, Chrysopa oculata and C. chi (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington.  84:191-203.

    Penny N. D., C. A. Tauber, and T. DeLeon. 2000. A new species of Chrysopa from western North America with a key to North American species (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 93:776-784.