Lacewings/Scorpion Flies

(Order: Neuroptera)

Green Lacewing (Chrysopa sp.) (beside the Stennes Stones, Orkney)

Such beautiful, delicate insects which hold their familiar veined wings ‘roof-like’ over their body when at rest.  Whilst they look like they wouldn’t harm a fly in fact they do and in large numbers. They devour vast quantities of aphids and other small insects. These types of lacewings lays their eggs on the ends of strands of mucus which harden on contact with the air.

Green Lacewing (Chrysopa sp.) (possibly Chrysoperia carnea or similar) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow) 

I'm not really sure whether this is the same species as the photos above or not. There do seem to be some differences: the lacewing in the top photos has greener wings and a broader abdomen.  This lacewing's delicate wings are a beatiful pearly transparent white and it has a long, slim abdomen.  I'm not sure whether it is possible to distinguish them from these photos alone. It is a relatively large insect with greeny, coppery irridescent eyes and its wings are held roof-like over its body at rest. However, whilst these lacewings look delicate and genteel, both larvae and adult lacewings polish off large quantities of aphids and other small insects. You know what they say, got to watch out for the good looking ones...

Lacewing (possibly Chrysopa perla or similar) (Darnley Country Park and Patterton, South West Glasgow)

This lacewing is similar to some other species of lacewings, but this is the most common lacewing with this distinctive black markings on its wings and black markings on the underside of its abdomen, its head and thorax. As you can see more clearly in the photo on the right, the wings have a bluish tinge. It is also a voracious aphid eater. Unfortunately I was unable to get a really sharp photo of this lacewing, but it was really beautiful with an unusual white fluttering fairy-like flight. My husband took the photo at the top using an additional macro lens. I find it difficult to use, but when it works, it makes all the difference in the world - it really brings out the detail, which I love.

Brown Lacewing (Hemerobius pacificus) (Kirkhill Primary School, South West Glasgow)

Unfortunately, there are many similar looking lacewings. The only distinguishing feature I can find about this one, is that it doesn’t have dark spots on its wings, which all other brown lacewings appear to have. Brown lacewings are mainly nocturnal and this one was in fact found as it was getting dark. Like green lacewings, they eat aphids and their wings are held roof-like over their bodies.

Brown Lacewing (Micromus variegatus) (Patterton, South West Glasgow)

This brown lacewing has three obvious brown patches on its wings. They have long antennae and are attracted to the light. Otherwise, brown lacewings in general are rather inconspicuous insects.

 Lacewing Larva (Patterton, South West Glasgow)

Apologies for the quality of this photo, I wish I had my proper macro lens with me that day. This creature was tiny and just looked like a piece of dirt until I noticed it was crawling along the leaf. It was only on closer inspection that I could just make out a nasty pair of mandibles (jaws) poking out from the pile of 'dirt', which are not only excellent at killing and sucking the juices out of aphids and other small insects, but which are apparently also excellent at giving humans a good bite too. The lacewing larva is covered in detritus - bits of debris, vegetation and the skins of the insects it's sucked dry - nice. These are also known as Aphid Wolves due to their ferocious aphid killing abilities. It is only some species of lacewing larvae that display these camouflage techniques.

Alderfly (Sialis lutaria) (Achindrain, Argyll)

Alderflies are closely related to lacewings, but are no longer considered part of the same order. I actually thought it looked more like a caddisfly than a lacewing, but there you go. Alderfly wings are cloudy brown with dark veins which do not fork at the margins. There is a distinctive 'comb' effect at the base of the wings which I think makes this one of the easier insects to identify. There are only three similar species in Britain which requirie microscopic examination to tell them apart.

Scorpion Fly (males on the top, females in the middle, mating at the bottom)(probably Panorpa germanica) (Loch of Lowes, Dunkeld and Inverary Castle Grounds, Argyll)

At long last, I finally managed to capture a photo of a male scorpion fly which has the upturned male genitalia resembling (no prizes for guessing) a scorpion. Although the genitalia resemble the sting of a scorpion, they are in fact completely harmless. As you can see from the photos in the middle, a female’s abdomen simply tapers to a point. These insects have spotted wings which are also tipped black and a large orange downward-pointing ‘beak’.  They belong to a group of insects dating back over 250 million years. As ever, there are a number of very similar species of scorpion fly, with females being unable to be identified at all and males requiring examination of the genitalia.  However, I have been advised that Panorpa germanica is overwhelmingly the commonest in Scotland. The mating position is also quite interesting as they are not in the 'usual' one on top of the other pose or facing in opposite direction pose in which other 'flies' are usually found.

Scorpion Fly (female) (possibly Panorpa communes(Milkhall Pond, Midlothian)

It is not possible to distinguish a female Panorpa germanica from a female Panorpa communes without examination with a microscope, so I have no way of knowing which species this is. The only reason I am guessing at P. communes is that sometime this species can be more heavily spotted than P. germanica and this certainly seems to be more heavily marked than the scorpion flies above. But as I say, this is a pure and entirely unscientific guess.