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To quote Monty Python…

January 28, 2020

and now for something completely different…

An order of insects seldom seen is Neuroptera (from the Ancient Greek, neuron meaning sinew and pteron meaning wing), the nerve-winged or net-winged insects. It includes antlions, lacewings and mantis flies but also the weird and wonderful fishflies, alderflies, snakeflies, and dobsonflies. Most are nocturnal and are seldom seen. A neuropteran spotted recently during a bird-watching jaunt was an Owlfly (Suhpalacsa sp.) pictured below.

Owlflies are fast flying dawn/dusk aerial predators, catching and eating their prey on the wing. They can be distinguished from other neuropterans by their long club-tipped antennae and their large owl-like eyes. During the day they rest on grasses or twigs with the wings folded down and the abdomen pointing upward resembling a stick (see picture above).

The larvae look like those of the antlion but instead of building sand traps they sit in the leaf litter and ambush their prey. They are equipped with pincer-like jaws through which the larvae can suck the juices out of soft bodied prey.

And on the Monty Python theme this specimen was almost an ex-owlfly as my foot descended from the heavens to just miss its resting place.

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