Brown lacewing


"Hemerobioidea" redirects here. Numerous lacewing families were formerly included there but now are placed elsewhere; see text for details.

Hemerobiidae is a family of Neuropteran insects commonly known as brown lacewings. These insects differ from the somewhat similar Chrysopidae (green lacewings) not only by the usual colouring but by the wing venation: hemerobiids having numerous long veins lacking in chrysopids. Some of the costal cross veins are forked, unlike in green lacewings.

Hemerobiids, like chrysopids, are predatory, especially on aphids, both as larvae and adults. Hemerobiid larvae are usually less hairy than chrysopid larvae.


Despite their superficial similarity to chrysopids, the brown and green lacewings are not as closely related as was at one time believed. Rather, the Hemerobiidae are closely related to the dustywings and spongillaflies, as well as to the large superfamily Mantispoidea.

The superfamily Hemerobioidea is nowadays restricted to the Hemerobiidae. Formerly, the pleasing lacewings (Dilaridae), silky lacewings (Psychopsidae), giant lacewings (Polystoechotidae) and as noted above the green lacewings (Chrysopidae) were placed therein too. Of these, only the first seem to be reasonably close relatives of the brown lacewings. The silky lacewings in fact seem to belong to an altogether different suborder of Neuroptera, the Myrmeleontiformia.

Apart from the genera assigned to subfamilies, there are some of uncertain or fairly basal position:

Numerous fossil Hemerobiidae have been described, some from the still-living genera, others from genera that are entirely extinct today. While most have been found in Eocene to Miocene rocks or amber, Promegalomus is known from the Jurassic. It was formerly considered to constitute a distinct family Promegalomidae, but is nowadays recognized as a very basal member of the Hemerobiidae. The Cretaceous Mesohemerobius was formerly considered a brown lacewing, but is today rather placed as incertae sedis in the Neuroptera; it might be a member of the Hemerobioidea but not even that is certain. Notable fossil Hemerobiidae genera are:

None of these appear to belong to a living subfamily.

Some additional brown lacewing larvae have been found as fossils, but it has been impossible to determine their generic or subfamilial association.



  • (1986): Collins Guide to the Insects of Britain and Western Europe.
  • (2007): The neuropterid fauna of Dominican and Mexican amber (Neuropterida, Megaloptera, Neuroptera). American Museum Novitates 3587: 1-58. PDF fulltext
  • (2008): Mikko's Phylogeny Archive: Neuroptera Version of 2008-MAR-11. Retrieved 2008-APR-27.

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