Friday 19 July 2013


Image: Muchaxo
I'm hoping a Spoonwing is an intelligent spoon who will fly to me when I have a tub of ice cream but forgot to bring a spoon. But it could just be someone throwing a spoon at my head.

Or it could be an insect? I guess I can go with that! Just not in my ice cream.

Image: Jesús Montero
Spoonwings look absolutely nuts with their hind wings squished and squashed into what looks like a badly proportioned feather. It's not abundantly clear what they're for and Spoonwings overall seem to be lamentably overlooked by the people who find stuff out. And most other people, too.

Image: Jean and Fred Hort
It's strange... Spoonwings are so KABLAM! So HERE I AM! It's like a man in shiny, red shoes. You can't ignore it! Or you can, but then you'll be weird and suspicious. At the same time, Spoonwings are economically a lot less important than shiny, red shoes, so I guess there's that.

Spoonwings are also known as Spoon-winged Antlions or Thread-winged Antlions. They even belong to the family called Nemopteridae, which means "thread wing"...

Image: Shaun Winterton
And which also means they aren't actually Antlions, since Antlions belong to a different family. At least they're closely related; both belong to the order Neuroptera: the net-winged insects.

Spoonwings are split into two groups:

Image: Muchaxo
Spoon wing
The ones with curly, colourful hind wings are Spoon-winged. They're larger than the other lot and many of them are active in the daytime.

Image: Bill & Mark Bell
Thread wing
The ones with more thread-like hind wings are Thread-winged. You probably won't be earning a Ph.D. for working that one out.

Image: Jean and Fred Hort
Thread-winged Antlions are sometimes placed in a family of their own called Crocidae. Apparently they use their thread-wings as antennae and they're more nocturnal. They're something of a "little brown moth" to the Spoon-winged Antlion's resplendent butterfly.

Altogether, there are less than 200 species of Spoonwing in the world although they're quite widespread in South America, Australia, Africa and parts of Asia and southern Europe.

Image: Jorge Íñiguez Yarza
There's a lot unknown about Spoonwings, which is a shame because they're close enough to Antlions to have larvae that look a bit like Antlions, with a chunky head and massive tusks for seizing prey. The Thread-winged ones are particularly interesting because their larvae have a kind of neck that can get quite preposterously long.

There is even suggestion that some Spoonwing eggs might get carried into ant colonies where they could hatch and the larvae would then feed on their house mates!

Adults on the other hand prefer to eat nectar and pollen. I suppose eating pollen can be understood as the consumption of the plant's hopes and massacre of its dreams, but it just isn't the same.


Esther said...

Is it me, or are insects king of 'uselessly long appendeges we don't actually need'? XD

Syeda Rafiya Shehnaz Urdu High school Daulatabad said...

" I happened to see this insect actually some years back", but that time I did not paid more attention on the genious and species of this kind of insect, actually I had a little bit interest in insects, so generally I used to see many different insects, some of them were very tiny few millimeter across, some were exactly look like jet fighter plane, but this kind of insect I saw only once in my life, and I was amazed by looking it's long spoon like two hind wings."

Thank you my dear for writing such details about its geniouse and species name and its howabouts.

TexWisGirl said...

like big salad tongs!

Joseph JG said...

@Esther: Haha! I think you're right!

@Ishrat: No problem! It's great that you saw one in real life, I'm happy to reintroduce you!

@TexWisGirl: They are! Maybe they use them to hunt lettuce?

Unknown said...

Do they ever appear in the UK?