The other day I found this tiny insect here in southeast Michigan. It was resting on a black walnut leaf (Juglans nigra, Junglandaceae) above the River Raisin early on a warm, sunny morning. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but after a closer examination I realized I had something pretty cool.
This is a dusty-wing (family Coniopterygidae), and it’s a member of the order Neuroptera. Like the order Megaloptera that I wrote about last week, I sometimes think of this as a “weird” order. Insects in this taxon are relatively uncommon, and according to Triplehorn and Johnson (2005) dusty-wings are especially “rare or unlikely to be taken by the general collector.”
Neuropterans are generally predaceous on other insects, and some are regarded as beneficial since they feed on plant pests. Perhaps the best-known are the common and brown lacewings (families Chrysopidae and Hemerobiidae, respectively). Dusty-wings also feed on other insects (Triplehorn and Johnson 2005). Given their rarity, however, I doubt they’re very important as pest-control agents.
Triplehorn, C.A. and N.F. Johnson. 2005. Borror and DeLong’s Introduction to the Study of Insects. Seventh Edition. Thomson Brooks/Cole, Belmont, CA.