Monday, 22 January 2007

Lacy fair

On warm summer nights, just about every type of flying insect flutters, zips or spirals into artificial lights. In temperate regions, the diversity and numbers of individuals are usually modest but in the tropics lights bring in a bug and beetle bonanza.

Adult lacewings (order Neuroptera) are regular visitors to lights. These exquisite insects have two pairs of membranous wings that are usually folded back over the body like a ridge tent. Although most species are dull-coloured, a few are fetching shades of green. Neuroptera includes several families, most of which are difficult to distinguish from one another. The exceptions are the owlflies (Ascalaphidae), which have a characteristic resting pose, and the spectacular mantisflies (Mantispidae). (This species is probably one of the Chrysopidae or golden-eyed green lacewings. But I'm not swearing to it.)

Many lacewings lay stalked eggs in lines or circles or neat horseshoes. Their larvae roam the vegetation feeding on aphids and other insects. Larvae of the Myrmeleontidae—the antlions—excavate conical pits in sand to trap their ant prey. To ensure that lunch doesn't escape, the larva sits at the bottom of the pit and pitches sand grains to dislodge the ant. Once they tumble into the antlion's jaws, few insects make a getaway ...

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*I remember driving from Townsville to Bowen one night in the wet season. No idea why but there must have been a good reason. It's not the most inspiring trip by day because once you pass Mt Elliot the landscape is so flat it looks as if it's been ironed. By night it's even more boring. But lights are visible from kilometres away. And insects are good at spotting them.

I pulled in to one of the few service stations on the way. Three down lights illuminated the forecourt. Little black beetles swarmed in their glow. Thousands of them, a blizzard of insects. Drifts banked up against the steps. That servo must have attracted every bloody beetle from Giru to Guthalungra. I spent the rest of the drive trying to brush them out of my hair. Not the world's most exciting anecdote.

6 comments:

Robin - Erithacus rubecula said...

Your posting reminded me of the very same trip many years ago.
My long hair attracted every beetle in the vicinity I think. My punishment, my partner said because mozzies never come near me.

Snail said...

Are you mozzie-resistant? oH, You lucky thing! I'm a walking mozzie trap. (And sandflies and march flies and ... )

Woollybutt (Peter) said...

Hi there Snail,

I found my way here from the link in the Scribbly Wiki. Nice blog, you have a great style. You seem to have a flair for making even the mundane interesting...

I like the fact that you have so many links to other interesting blogs, I'm new to blogging and am particularly interested in ones relating to nature, so it's good to know I can find them from here.

I'm off now but I shall return for another poke around soon.

Regards
Woollybutt

Snail said...

Thanks, Woollybutt :)

That's the danger with links ... From here to there to there to there ... and that's the afternoon gone!

AYDIN Ă–RSTAN said...

No, that was an interesting anectode. There is a lesson in there somewhere...

Snail said...

There is a lesson in there somewhere...

*waggles finger*

And don't you forget it!