Mystery Creature Identified

Those of you who read my recent post Wildlife Visitors in October would remember that at the end of the post I included a short video of an unusual animal I accidentally came across in the backyard. It was such a strange looking creature I had a lot of trouble trying to Google it because I couldn’t work out what type of animal it was.

Here is the video again for those who haven’t seen it.

I sent off some photos and the video to QuestaGame to see if they could identify it for me.

I just received their response and after undergoing some of my own research once I knew what I was looking for, this is what I have discovered –

The creature in the video is a green lacewing larva (family chrysopidae, order neuroptera). It’s also known as an aphid lion and a junk bug.

These bugs eat aphids and untended eggs of other bugs. The larva feeds by stabbing its prey with its sharp hornlike mouthparts, which are hollow, injects a paralysing venom and then sucks out the innards, which takes about 90 seconds. It then places the empty husk of its prey onto its back and begins the search for its next victim.

So the big pile of debris on the bug’s back in the video is actually full of dead bodies with a few bits of plant material in the mix to help camouflage it from predators. Watching the video again, I can now discern a few insect parts amid the plant material on the bug’s back.

The larvae turn into a very pretty insect with a bright lime green body of about 2cm in length and have delicate transparent wings and a wingspan of about 6cm. The adult eats aphids as well as nectar and pollen. They are nocturnal and are attracted to bright lights at night. The green lacewing is a common insect found in backyards throughout Brisbane and surrounding areas. Below is a picture of the green lacewing from the Queensland Museum website.

Green Lacewing
Green Lacewing

Interesting Trivia

Since green lacewings love to devour aphids and can eat quite a high number of them in their lifetime, there is research being done on using these insects as a biological control agent in agriculture and gardens. Gardeners can attract these lacewings to their gardens by having a mixture of beneficial weeds and companion planting of dill, angelica, sunflowers and dandelions to help control insects such as aphids, mealybugs, caterpillar eggs, moth eggs, thrips, mites and whiteflies. Or buy a box of green lacewing eggs at Bunnings!!

Thanks to QuestaGame for identifying this animal for me and helping to solve a puzzling mystery. 🙂


6 thoughts on “Mystery Creature Identified

  1. Well spotted, Sue! What a clever, if somewhat macabre, way to disguise itself from predators. I see these lacewings on the outside of the kitchen window at night sometimes. Plenty of dandelions in my garden to attract them and I was gobsmacked by your Bunnings comment. Amazing.

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