Aphid Lions On Plants

lacewing

Left: Aphid Lion on a Flower.
Right: Aphid Lion Magnified.

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.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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One Response to Aphid Lions On Plants

  1. Pingback: Aphid Lions On Plants – Entomo Planet

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