|Image: Stephen Ausmus|
Green Lacewings are a couple thousand members of the family Chrysopidae, with wingspans ranging between 6 and over 60 mm (0.2 to 2.4 in) across. They can be found all over the world and belong to the order Neuroptera, a remarkably fascinating yet lamentably little spoken of group called the net-winged insects.
|Image: Malcolm Storey, bioimages.org.uk|
|Image: Gilles San Martin|
Of course, Green Lacewings are themselves tiny beasties, which is why they must defend themselves against slightly larger beasties. One way of doing this is by being nocturnal, which is effective against most birds. They can also release a stinky fluid when disturbed. At night, it's the bats that are the problem. Green Lacewings can actually hear the screech of bats that use echolocation, at which point it's time for evasive manoeuvres - they close their wings and fall to the ground.
So it's all stench, darkness and falling for our poor, delicate Green Lacewing, but at least that hearing ability comes in handy. It's achieved by the tympanal organ at the base of the front wings. They're basically drums; a frame with a membrane across, an air sac behind and lots of nerves to sense vibrations.
Having no desire to let a good thing go to waste, Green Lacewings use sound for communication and courtship. They "tremulate", which is an old word for "tremble in fear", only they do it a little more lasciviously. It's all about... you know.
The sound they produce is much more difficult for us to hear than that of crickets and grasshoppers, but sometimes the only difference between two species of Green Lacewing is the song that attracts them. They are otherwise almost completely identical. Kinda like teenagers.
When all's sung and done, the female lays a couple hundred eggs on the end of stalks on the underside of leaves. The rigid, silk stalk protects the eggs from ants and other ne'er-do-wells. Eventually they hatch. Many would wish they didn't...
So off they go, swaying their head back and forth like a mad thing. When they touch upon the soft, plump body of an aphid, they brutally pierce it with their long, hollow mandibles. They then inject digestive enzymes such that the aphid melts away in its own exoskeleton. Now the larva can suck up the slurry, flick the husk away and strut on in search of new victims.
|Image: Miroslav Deml|
|Image: David Illig|
It's a whole bungalow here! Jaws on the right
|Image: JJ Harrison|