Many groups of insects, including the familiar lady beetles and less familiar aphid lions, prey on aphids and other small insects. Aphid lions are the larvae of lacewings (Order: Neuroptera). Aphid lions have long sharp mouthparts that extend in front of the head. The mouthparts are used to pierce prey, inject them with saliva and digestive enzymes, and tear or macerate the prey tissue into small chunks. This “extra-oral” digestion is used by many insect predators. The mouthparts of predators have been modified in a variety of ways for feeding.
Aphid lion mouthparts are modified mandibles and maxillae that contain a feeding tube and salivary tube. The mouthparts contain channels to inject saliva, venoms and digestive enzymes into the prey and allows the aphid lion to pump both liquids and small chunks of solids into its digestive system. I think of it as an aphid smoothie. Aphid lions are one of the many predators that in most years, keep populations of aphids from “exploding” and causing extensive damage to our ornamental and crop plants.