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NEUROPTERA, Ascalaphidae --  <Images> & <Juveniles>


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Ululodes hyalina Latr. of the southern United States and Central America was studied by McClendon (1902).  Eggs are laid in groups of 57-75 in a double row at the end of a twig, and the mass is fenced off slightly below the base by several circles of "repagula" placed on end.  These repagula are thought to be aborted eggs, produced by certain ovarian tubules at the same time that others form normal eggs.  This formation is thought to protect the egg mass from natural enemies.  The incubation period is 9-10 days.


Larvae hide in depression in soil or under the edges of stones and cover their bodies with sand or dust.  While awaiting prey, the huge mandibles are held widely separated.  The closing of the jaws is seemingly triggered by contact, and the prey is usually paralyzed within seconds by the bite.  The body fluids of the prey are absorbed through a duct formed by the fitting together of curved mandible and maxilla.  There are 3 larval instars, and development takes ca. 62 days.


Helicomitus dicax Wlk. lays dark brown eggs in single rows, each of which contains as many as 40 (Ghosh 1913).  There are 3 larval instars, the larvae living on the ground surface, beneath a dust covering which conceals all but the mandibles.  These are used in placing the particles of dust or sand on the back, and each mandible can be moved independently of the other (Clausen 1940/62).  The pupa emerges from the cocoon by bursting it rather than by dissolving or cutting an opening.  There is one generation annually, and overwintering is as active larvae.


Pseudoptynx sp. larvae do not have a covering of sand or debris, but rather conceal themselves in tree bark depressions (Gravely & Maulik 1911).  Here they are inconspicuous, their legs being hidden and their mandibles so widely separated that they lie along the sides of the head and thorax.  Larvae of Ascalaphus insimulans Wlk. assemble in linear groups on plant stems, with their bodies overlapping, so that only the heads and widespread mandibles are visible (Clausen 1940/62).


Wheeler (1930) noted several species that rely on protective coloration rather than a soil covering.  One undermined species from Panama had a greenish-colored larva that inhabited the leaves of trees and lay with its body flattened along the mid-rib on the upper surface.  When awaiting prey, the mandibles were opened so widely that they were completely hidden beneath the lateral margins of the thorax.


These "owlflies" has habits that are similar to the Myrmeleontidae.  The larvae wait for their prey, which includes a variety of soft-bodied insects.  However, they do not construct pits., but rather utilize natural depressions to hide and often cover their bodies with dust.  The larvae are different from the true ant lions because they walk forward rather than backward.  The adults look a lot like dragonflies but may be distinguished by a long, clubbed antenna.  They are crepuscular or nocturnal in behavior.  Adults are strong fliers just like dragonflies.  There are periods of hovering and rapid flight, when the adults feed on small insects.  It has been noted that adults rest a lot, and usually with their head held down on a vertical twig, from which the body projects a right angle thus appearing as a small twig (Borror et al. 1989).  They do not fly off directly from a resting position, but must go through a preparation period of several minutes while they vibrate their wings.  The wings in some adults are colored.



References:   Please refer to  <biology.ref.htm>, [Additional references may be found at:  MELVYL Library]


Borror, D. J., C. A. Triplehorn & N. F. Johnson.  1989.  An Introduction to the Study of Insects, 6th Ed.  Saunders Coll. Publ., Philadelphia.  875 p.