Lacewings and Allies Overview

Key Information

Lancashire and Cheshire Recorder: Steve Garland
Lancashire and Cheshire iRecord Verifier:Steve Garland
National Recording Scheme Organiser:Colin Plant (cpauk1@ntlworld.com)
No. British Species:c.70
No. Lancashire and Cheshire Species:>40
Ave. No. Records Submitted Per Year:<100
NW Atlases:None
NW Checklists:

Hull, M. (1987) Check List of the Neuroptoidea of Lancashire & Cheshire.  Journal of the Lancashire and Cheshire Entomological Society. 110, pp.66.  Basic county checklist with pre and post 1970 split. Go to document

Brindle, A. (1972) The Lacewing-Flies of Lancashire and Cheshire. Lancashire and Cheshire Fauna Society Committee, 61; pp.25-32. Checklist with no dates, but localities and abundance notes.

Garland, S. (2020) Preliminary checklist of Lacewings and Allies recorded from VC 58, 59 & 69 - See bottom of overview text below.
Websites:National Scheme: http://lacewings.myspecies.info/
NatureSpot: www.naturespot.org.uk>
Identification Keys:Plant, Colin (1997) A key to the adults of British Lacewings and their allies. Field Studies Council.
Data Access Via NBN Atlas:Open data but 20 years out of date (records up to March 1999) - see Data access via NBN Atlas page for updates>

An Overview of Recording

Preliminary notes on Lancashire and Cheshire Lacewings and allies.
by Steve Garland (May 2020)

At present there are very few records for the Neuroptera and their allied groups in our counties. This is especially true of north and central Lancashire. To some extent this may reflect the lack of woodland for groups that include many tree-associated species, but I hope more people may try identifying and recording them. In particular, there are hardly any records for a huge swathe of Lancashire from around Wigan up to Lancaster.

I am at a very early stage of collating records for these groups, but felt a few notes might help anyone interested in studying them. This is just a quick ‘sketch’ of our current knowledge and there will be errors in here and missing records, but it is a start.

Some species can be identified alive in the field, or from good-quality photographs, but many can only be identified with certainty by examining their genitalia. However, many have features that are external and easily visible, but for those with internal structures, collection and dissection is the only option. A number of the wax-flies can only be determined from dissected males at present.

Figures in brackets below are species numbers known in Lancashire & Cheshire vs UK.

Scorpionflies (Mecoptera) (4:4)

snowflea_Stephen Hewitt

Snow Flea (Stephen Hewitt)

The Snow Flea (Boreus hyemalis) is a tiny insect that lives in mosses. It is active in winter (especially January to March) and can be found by pitfall trapping or sorting through mosses. I don’t know of any recent records, but there are old records from Delamere area in Cheshire and it is known on the limestone just over the border in south Cumbria. It is widespread on the high fells of the Lakes and occurs in the higher Pennines. It is an insect that is very easily overlooked, but would be worth looking for on the Cheshire heathlands, Bowland and N Lancashire limestone (it is known in woodlands in other regions).

Panorpa sp. (Pete Beard)

Of the three Scorpionflies (Panorpa), all are known in the area and two are very common. Males can be identified with a good hand-lens by looking at the shape of external structures on the underside of the genitalia (the bulbous false ‘sting’ on the tail). This is usually obvious in good photos too as they normally curl it up obligingly, displaying the correct bits! Females need dissection and cannot be done from photos. Wing markings are not consistent enough for reliable identification.

 

 

Snake Flies (Raphidioptera) (1:4)

Xanthostigma xanthostigma (Walwyn)

Snake flies are very distinctive and all are associated with trees and woodland. There only seems to be one species known in our region, Xanthostigma xanthostigma, and it isn’t recorded often. However, Atlantoraphidia maculicollis is known from Scotland and in England as far north as Yorkshire, so might occur – it should be looked for on Pine. Phaeostigma notata is widespread in the south, but so far not quite into our area. It should be looked for on Oak and is most likely to be discovered in Cheshire.

Alder Flies (Megaloptera) (2:3)

Sialis sp. (Ryszard)

Three species of Sialis occur in the UK and all specimens require examination of their genitalia for a positive identification – with experience it is possible to do this with a good hand-lens in the field. Dried specimens may need rehydrating as their soft bodies usually deform/shrink on drying, making identification impossible. All general photographs will only be accepted as Sialis species unless a specific photo of the genitalia is provided – and these can be difficult to take so the differences are clearly visible, especially for females. The adults are often found sitting on waterside vegetation by day and they are recorded as larvae in water samples. S. lutaria is common in still water, whereas S. fuliginosa is in flowing water. S. nigripes seems to like faster-flowing rivers, preferably with calcareous water. It is known in Smardale Gill in south Cumbria and has been recorded in the higher reaches of the Ribble in Yorkshire, but has not so far been recorded from Lancashire and Cheshire.

Lacewings (Neuroptera) (42:53)

These are classified into five families, Osmylidae, Hemerobiidae, Coniopterygidae, Sisyridae and Chrysopidae.

Giant Lacewings (Osmylidae) (1:1)

Osmylus fulvicephalus is the only British species of Giant Lacewing, and is very distinctive in the field and found along rivers, streams and canals.

Osmylus fulvicephalus (Pierre Bornand)

 

Brown Lacewings (Hemerobiidae) (21:32)

This family contains many species that can only be reliably separated by examining their genitalia. For most males, however, the characters are easily visible externally. However, dried specimens, especially if they were teneral when killed, can distort, making identification trickier. Males can often be identified from good macro photographs of the abdomen tip taken from the side. Females are not as obvious and in dried specimens can seem impossible.

Drepanapteryx phalaenoides is a distinctive, woodland species not recorded from our area, but there are several old records from southern Cumbria – and a recent one in 2018 – very distinctive as vaguely reminiscent of a Scalloped Hook-tip moth at rest.

Hemerobius humulinus (Donald Hobern)

Hemerobius (10:14) are mostly associated with trees. A few have distinctive wing venation and/or markings, but some require examination of the genitalia. Three species have relatively unmarked wings (or faintly marked), including H. lutescens, our most commonly recorded species, which is found in a wide range of habitats, including open scrub. The other three unmarked ones are H. micans, H. nitidulus, and H. stigma. H. micans is a common woodland species associated with oaks (Quercus), whereas H. nitidulus and stigma are associated with Pines (Pinus), with micans being quite common, nitidulus less so.

The rest of the Hemerobius species have wings with noticeable dark markings, which can help in their identification. However, faded or teneral specimens may present problems and Plant’s key illustrates the male genitalia. These are internal, so will not be observable in photographs (females with poor markings will have to remain a mystery at present). H. humulinus is the most common of these, occurring in a wide range of habitats. H. marginatus is usually quite distinctive, with several dark markings along the hind edge of the front wing. It is associated with Hazel (Corylus), Alder (Alnus) and Birch (Betula) and has been recorded frequently in Cheshire, but we seem to have few Lancashire records. H. simulans is a large Hemerobius associated with a wide range of conifers, but especially Larch (Larix). It is widespread in Great Britain, but we have a strange lack of records in our area; definitely one to look for. H. pini is another Pine-associated species and another with very few records in our area, possibly none in Lancashire! In the key it is very similar to H. contumax, but at present that species is not known anywhere near the north-west. H. atrifrons is associated specifically with Larch, and there only seem to be pre-1950 records from Cheshire in our area, although the NBN Atlas has a dot for SJ49 in south Lancashire/Merseyside. Another one to look out for.

Finally, there is a record of the south-European species H. handschini from east Cheshire in 1998 – the first British record. Finally, H. perelegans is a northern species which is supposed to be associated with Birch in rocky uplands. Despite there being no north-west records, it would not be surprising to find it in suitable habitat.

Psectra diptera (1:1) is one of the genera without a recurrent humeral vein and has distinctive wing venation. It comes in a fully-winged form and one with vestigial hind-wings, which make it very distinctive. It is usually found in grassland, but there are few records for our area.

Micromus variegatus (Ryszard)

Micromus (3:3) species also lack the recurrent humeral vein and are usually easy to identify from their wing venation, the male genitalia are also very distinctive. M. variegatus is very commonly recorded our area and M. paganus slightly less so, but M. angulatus is only known to date from VC60.
There are very few records of any Sympherobius (3:4) species for our area. S. fuscescens is associated with Scot’s Pine, S. pygmaeus with pines or oak and S. elegans with broadleaved trees. All Sympherobius are difficult to identify to species without examination of the male genitalia.

The Wesmaelius (4:8) species are quite tricky to identify. W. concinnus and W. quadrifasciatus can usually be identified on colour, markings and wing

Wesmaelius sp. (Ben Sale)

venation, but all the others need their genitalia checking. However, W. subnebulosus and W. nervosus are the only other species currently recorded in our area and both are quite common – in fact they are some of our most commonly seen brown lacewings.

They can only be separated by examining genitalia, but the males have very different and quite distinctive hooked abdomen tips, which may be obvious enough to be seen in photos if they are sharp and taken from the side (although they usually sit with their wings covering the body, so holding them gently may be necessary).

Of the four remaining species, W. balticus is a (mostly) coastal species associated with Marram Grass (Ammophila arenaria) and may well (probably ought to) occur on the Lancashire coast as it is known in England, Wales and Scotland. A voucher specimen would be essential to confirm this species.

Wax-flies (Coniopterygidae) (6:13)

These tiny lacewings are some of the least-recorded insects in the area. Most entomologists would probably overlook them as whitefly, aphids or other Hemiptera. The sit in the distinctive lacewing pose with their wings held over their body like a tent. Not only are they difficult to find, they are the most difficult group to identify. All but the next species require dissection of the male genitalia, a tricky process on such tiny specimens. Females are currently impossible from structural examination or dissection.
They are sometimes found in moth traps (but easily missed) or on house windows. They are also sometimes beaten from foliage, especially where aphids are common, such as Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) leaves. A black beating tray may help. As they are so rarely encountered and difficult to identify, please keep any you find and forward them to me or another expert for identification.

Parasemidalis fuscipennis is known from south Lancashire and is the only species of this family that can usually be identified from its wing venation. It has been found on pine in the county, but is supposed to occur on oak and other plants.

Conwentzia (2:2) have reduced hind wings, so are a distinctive genus, but the two species can only be separated by dissection of males. However, C. pineticola is restricted to Pines (Pinus sp.) and C. psociformis is found on broadleaved trees and bushes, so a note on their habitat may suggest which species it is. There are several records of C. psociformis for the south of our area and one confirmed for C. pineticola.

Semidalis (1:2) is represented in our area by an unconfirmed record of S. aleyrodiformis in 1974. I have beaten this species from Sycamore leaves covered with aphids in other parts of the England.

Coniopteryx sp. (Christophe Quintin)

Coniopteryx (2:6) is a very large genus in Europe, so it is likely that further species will be discovered in the UK and until relatively recently we only knew of three species in the country! C. tineiformis is the commonest and we have a few records in our area. C. borealis occurs widely across Britain and should occur in the north-west, but hasn’t been found yet as far as I know. C. pygmaea has one record from the south Lancashire coast. I don’t know of any records in our area for C. esbenpeterseni but, since its discovery, has been found to occur widely across the country and would be expected to occur here.

Green Lacewings (Chrysopidae) (13:18)

These include some of the most commonly-observed lacewings. Most are green, but some are more brown/straw-coloured.

Nothochrysa capitata (Donald Hobern)

Nothochrysa (1:2) genus includes the two brown species. There are a few records of N. capitata for the south of our area, but none for N. fulviceps despite there being very scattered records across the whole of England. It is thought that it lives in the crown of mature oaks, so may be hard to find.

Chrysopa (5:6) includes the extremely common blue-green C. perla. The other blue-green species is the very rare C. dorsalis, which is restricted to pines, so do check any ‘perla’ beaten from pines very closely – it is known from the south Lancashire dune areas. We have a few records of C. pallens, which is widespread, but uncommon. C. commata has only been recorded in South Lancashire but the very similar species C. phyllochroma hasn’t been found, though probably should occur. C. abbreviata is a coastal species associated with dunes and Marram Grass. It occurs along the south Lancashire dunes systems. C. carnea and C. lucasina are a closely-related pair of species. Along with some other European species, they form a difficult to identify group of very similar species. The majority of specimens examined in our area seem to be lucasina. C. carnea is supposedly the species that is sold as larvae for

gardeners and horticulturalists to control aphids and other pests. I have not bought any samples to check (larvae are about £35 for 500), but the photographs on most sites show specimens with the slightly pointed wings typical of Chrysopa lucasina! If anyone has bought these, I would like to confirm which species is involved.

Chrysopa perla (Walwyn)

Australian gardeners can buy a green lacewing species called Mallada signata, Americans have Chrysoperla rufilabris; though hopefully these won’t turn up in the UK!
Chrysotropia ciliata is common in the south of our area but there are no records for most of Lancashire. It may be overlooked and is associated with broadleaved trees.

Cunctochrysa (1:2) is represented by C. albolineata and seems not uncommon in our area.

Nineta flava (Gilles San Martin)

All three UK species of Dichochrysa (3:3) have been recorded in our area. All of them seem to follow the same pattern with a scattering of records in the south, but few further north into Lancashire.

All of the Nineta (2:3) species are large insects with a wingspan usually over 30mm. N. flava is easily identified in the field by its size and fore-wing shape. It is a common woodland species, but we have an apparent gap in records between Wigan and Lancaster. N. vittata is nearly as common, with a similar gap in records.

Sponge Flies (Sisyridae) (1:3)

Sisyra nigra (Christophe Quintin)

These are small brown lacewings, but have no recurrent humeral vein. The larvae are aquatic, feeding on freshwater sponges, hence their name and the adults come to light, often in numbers in suitable localities. Sisyra nigra has been recorded across our region around slow-moving or still water, even quite small ponds. The other two species have not been recorded in our region as far as I know, but S. dalii is known just south of Cheshire and in North Wales and also in Cumbria in fast-flowing stony rivers, so is very likely to be in our area.

There is a National Recorder (Colin Plant) and recording scheme, but it has not been especially proactive in recent years. I am collating records for Lancashire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cumbria and verify these on iRecord.

Helpful links:

Scorpionflies (Panorpa) – ID guide by Worcestershire Records Centre

Neuroptera and Allies – Recording Scheme

UK Neuroptera checklist

Preliminary checklist of species recorded from VC 58, 59 & 69

CHRYSOPIDAE
Chrysoperla carnea (Stephens, 1836) sensu stricto
Chrysoperla lucasina (Lacroix, 1912)
Chrysopidia ciliata (Wesmael, 1841)
Chrysopa abbreviata Curtis, 1834
Chrysopa commata Kis & Ujhelyi, 1965
Chrysopa dorsalis Burmeister, 1839
Chrysopa pallens (Rambur, 1838)
Chrysopa perla (Linnaeus, 1758)
Cunctochrysa albolineata (Killington, 1935)
Dichochrysa flavifrons (Brauer, 1850)
Dichochrysa prasina (Burmeister, 1839)
Dichochrysa ventralis (Curtis, 1834)
Nineta flava (Scopoli, 1763)
Nineta vittata (Wesmael, 1841)
Nothochrysa capitata (Fabricius, 1793)

CONIOPTERYGIDAE
Coniopteryx (Coniopteryx) pygmaea Enderlein, 1906 nec auctt.
Coniopteryx (Coniopteryx) tineiformis Curtis, 1834
Conwentzia pineticola Enderlein, 1905
Conwentzia psociformis (Curtis, 1834)
Parasemidalis fuscipennis (Reuter, 1894)
Semidalis aleyrodiformis (Stephens, 1836)

HEMEROBIIDAE
Hemerobius atrifrons McLachlan, 1868
Hemerobius fenestratus Tjeder, 1932
Hemerobius humulinus Linnaeus, 1761
Hemerobius lutescens Fabricius, 1793
Hemerobius marginatus Stephens, 1836
Hemerobius micans Olivier, 1792
Hemerobius nitidulus Fabricius, 1777
Hemerobius pini Stephens, 1836
Hemerobius simulans Walker, 1853
Hemerobius stigma Stephens, 1836
Micromus angulatus (Stephens, 1836)
Micromus paganus (Linnaeus, 1767)
Micromus variegatus (Fabricius, 1793)
Psectra diptera (Burmeister, 1836)
Sympherobius (Niremberge) fuscescens (Wallengren, 1863)
Sympherobius (Sympherobius) elegans (Stephens, 1836)
Sympherobius (Sympherobius) pygmaeus (Rambur, 1842)
Wesmaelius (Kimminsia) nervosus (Fabricius, 1793)
Wesmaelius (Kimminsia) subnebulosus (Stephens, 1836)
Wesmaelius (Wesmaelius) concinnus (Stephens, 1836)
Wesmaelius (Wesmaelius) quadrifasciatus (Reuter, 1894)

OSMYLIDAE
Osmylus fulvicephalus (Scopoli, 1763)

SISYRIDAE
Sisyra dalii McLachlan, 1866
Sisyra nigra (fuscata) (Retzius, 1783)
Sisyra terminalis Curtis, 1854

RHAPHIDIIDAE
Xanthostigma xanthostigma (Schummel, 1832)

MECOPTERA
Boreus hyemalis (Linnaeus, 1767)
Panorpa cognata Rambur, 1842
Panorpa communis Linnaeus, 1758
Panorpa germanica Linnaeus, 1758

MEGALOPTERA
Sialis fuliginosa Pictet, 1836
Sialis lutaria (Linnaeus, 1758)