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 Major Groups | Insecta (insects) | Neuroptera (spongeflies, lacewings)

Neuroptera (spongeflies, lacewings)

Major Group: Insecta
Order: Neuroptera

Descriptive Features:

  • wings absent
  • antennae short, or long slender and extending anteriorly
  • mouthparts piercing, modified for sucking into a long cylindrical proboscis
  • mandible and maxilla extending straight forward from head
  • thorax and abdomen with scattered dorsal setae
  • body slender, elongate to relatively squat  
  • abdomen tapered toward apex
  • with or without ventral abdominal gills
  • no caudal, lobe or projections
  • legs moderately long
  • Total length: 10 12 mm
  • Taxonomic Checklist:



    Distribution: Qld, SE Vic, SE NSW, ACT, W NSW

    Sensitivity Rating: SIGNAL grade 6

    Functional Feeding Group: predators

    Ecology: Instream habitat: Neuroptera larvae may be aquatic or semi-aquatic. They occur in, or along the margins of, fast-flowing or slow-moving rivers and larger lakes. Larvae are generally found in the benthic zone, under rocks or on the surface of, or in the cavities of, sponges, however others may be found on the water surface. Adults are usually found on riparian vegetation but are occasionally found in groups on rocks or under bridges near water.
    Feeding ecology: Larvae are either general predators feeding on a variety of small benthic invertebrates or are specialised predators of freshwater sponges and probably Bryozoa. Invertebrate predators generally probe the mud with their proboscis looking for food. Sponge predators pierce the sponge cells and suck out the fluids with their proboscis.
    Habit: Semi-aquatic larvae have water repellent surfaces to prevent them from sinking through the water surface. Aquatic larvae are active swimmers and some early instar larvae are able to leap up to about 5mm by tucking the posterior of the abdomen ventrally and flicking themselves off the substratum.
    Life history: As a group, the biology of Australian Neuroptera species is not well documented. The following information includes observations from Northern Hemisphere records. Females lay their eggs either in short rows of up to 12 on overhanging vegetation, tree trunks and stones, or in masses on vegetation or other structures overhanging water then cover them in silk. Larvae drop into the water upon hatching and either swim down to the benthos or to a freshwater sponge. Larvae pass through three instars. Pupation takes place on land and lasts for 7-18 days Pupae may over-winter in a silken cocoon. Most Neuroptera species are univoltine, with adults collected from spring to autumn but active periods vary from species to species. Adults may live for two weeks or up to three months. 
    Information Sources: Smithers 2008, New 1991, 1995, 2004, Williams & Feltmate 1992, Williams 1980, Gooderham & Tsyrlin 2002
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