Some of those little bugs with flimsy wings that fly around the porch light at night seem innocent enough, especially if you identify them with the gentle name of "lacewing." Even though they are harmless, they bother many people less attuned to nature. Dave Barry defines nature as "anything you would kill if it got inside your house."
The specimen above is one of the many green lacewing species in the Chrysopinae family. I believe this is Leucochrysa insularis, although identification down to species level is challenging to even experienced taxonomists. I will let you do the comparison yourself with the picture below.
|L. insularis -Robert Lord Zimlich|
Although identifying species of lacewings is a challenge, fortunately, the animals themselves are able to overcome this problem by courtship rituals, vibrating their bodies and the leaf they are on to produce species specific rhythms. One pair of closely related species are only differentiated by listening to recordings of their vibrations.
|L. insularis -tom murray CC|
|Green lacewing eggs- Chrysopidae family- Tom Murray|
|L. insularis larva -Jim Kalisch CC|
|Larva head- Thom Schaefer|
|Decorated green lacewing larva- Ted Kropiewnicki CC|
|Decorated larva- Wikimedia|
The next time you brush away a fluttering insect by your porch light, be gentle. It is probably just out on the prowl, testing you for aphids.
As discussed in a recent blog on the wavy-lined emerald moth, lots of other caterpillars decorate their bodies, presumable as camouflage. Bug Girl's Blog has an interesting variation on the theme. A caterpillar native to Australia retains its dried head remnant after each molt, stacking them up like a hat from a Mardi Gras parade.
November 1, 2016 - Linda Bower posted a video of a debris carrying larva.