Top Photo: Green lacewing egg on leatherleaf viburnum.
While standing next to a leatherleaf viburnum near the Sandbox in Gateway Park, I took a close look at the leaves of the shrub, you never know what you’ll find, getting up close to vegetation. To my surprise I spotted two green lacewing eggs. There was one egg on two separate leaves several inches apart.
I’ve seen lacewing eggs before, but perhaps only once here at the museum. Most descriptions of lacewings suggest that they lay their eggs in clusters, spirals or circles. They’re most often attached to a leaf but also objects such as doors, fence posts, walls and the like. I’ve only seen them singly on vegetation.
Female lacewings lay their eggs, as mentioned, on various objects, but mostly vegetation. Using the tip of their abdomen like a hot clue gun loaded with a stick of clue the insect touches it to the leaf surface. She lifts her abdomen up, stretching out the silky clue to about 8 – 10 mm where, at the very tip, she deposits a single egg.
The eggs I saw on the viburnum leaves were no more than a millimeter in length and less than half that wide. The shells were wrinkled and open at the end. They had hatched. You could see body parts of which the insect had worn while inside the egg before it emerged. The occupants had long gone.
Lacewing larvae, which is what hatches from the eggs, are longer than wide. At their head end, they have formidable pincers used to capture and secure insect prey. To help them in their endeavors to seize prey many species cover themselves in foreign objects collected from other insects or vegetation to use as camouflage.
Often the covering is lichen, which is why lacewing larvae are frequently referred to as lichen bugs. But they also use other forms of camo like the white, woolly material appropriated from woolly aphids. They’re fierce predators, so they probably eat the aphids, then take their wool, which is actually a waxy substance produced by the tiny insects. As long as they can attach it to themselves, and it obscures their predatory presence, the lacewing larvae will use it.
After all of that, I confess to not currently having a photo of an adult green lacewing. The encounters with adults have either been too fleeting, I’ve not had a camera with me, or…enough excuses. The link below has all the adult lacewing photos you could ask for. The photos are at a web site called BugGuide. Have a look.