Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory




Regional Maps


Ant-lions, Lacewings

Compiler and date details

31 August 1995 - T.R. New, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia


The Neuroptera, or Planipennia, are archaic endopterygotes closely related to Megaloptera and Raphidioptera. One of the smaller orders of higher insects, lacewings and their allies comprise about 5000 described species, of which more than 600 occur in Australia. Lacewings are widespread, although some families are very restricted in range.

Most Neuroptera are terrestrial, although some (Sisyridae, Neurorthidae, some Osmylidae) have aquatic or semiaquatic larvae. Many undergo more than one generation each year. With few exceptions, larvae are predators, and they range from generalised polyphagous feeders on small invertebrates to highly specialised and specific feeders. Most larvae are active and campodeiform, but a few (Ithonidae, Mantispidae) are sedentary. They feed by piercing food; and their elongated mandibles and maxillae, and are associated closely to form a sucking tube. Pupae are decticous and exarate, usually formed within a silken cocoon. The adults are mandibulate, almost all are active flyers and many are attracted to lights, though some species are diurnal. Most are predators, but some feed on honeydew or plant exudates or pollen, either solely or as part of a wider diet incorporating animal food. General accounts of the order are given by New (1986, 1989), and the main features of the Australian fauna are summarised by New (1991). A catalogue of the genus-group names of the order (Oswald & Penny 1991) provides much useful bibliographical information, and features of larvae of the various families are summarised by Gepp (1984).

The Australian fauna includes many of the more archaic groups of Neuroptera, and the level of endemism is very high. Fourteen families are represented. Nymphidae, Ithonidae, Myrmeleontidae: Stilbopteryginae, and some groups of Osmylidae are restricted (or almost restricted) to the region. Three families (Rapismatidae, Dilaridae, Polystoechotidae) and the Coniopterygidae: Brucheiserinae (sometimes treated as a distinct family, Brucheiseridae) are absent. The predominant family in Australia is the Myrmeleontidae, antlions, reflecting the large arid and semiarid areas of the country. Many groups, especially in the north, have strong affinities with the New Guinea and Oriental Region fauna.

The pioneering workers on Australian Neuroptera include P. Esben-Petersen and R.J. Tillyard in the early decades of this century, and both contributed substantially to consolidating knowledge from earlier fragmentary descriptions of the fauna. D.E. Kimmins also produced significant studies before the more recent period of interest and activity which commenced through the studies of E.F. Riek. As a result of revisionary studies of most families during the last two decades, adults are now tolerably well-known, and the relevant papers are cited under the individual family accounts. However, biological information remains fragmentary, even for those families (Chrysopidae, Hemerobiidae, Coniopterygidae) whose members may be of considerable value as biological control agents of pests on crops.

Higher Classification
Many aspects of the higher classification of Neuroptera are by no means clear. The arrangement of families in this work follows that of New (1991), Engel et al. (2018) and Jones (2019), with the sequence and superfamily arrangement as in Table 1.

Table 1.
Tentative superfamily arrangement of neuropteran families recorded in Australia. An alternative placement for Psychopsidae is in Myrmeleontoidea.

Superfamily: Coniopterygoidea

Superfamily: Ithonoidea

Superfamily: Osmyloidea

Superfamily: Mantispoidea

Superfamily: Hemerobioidea

Superfamily: Myrmeleontoidea

Superfamily: Psychopsoidea


The Catalogue (New 1996), from which this database is derived, was compiled with the support of funding from the ABRS. I am very grateful to Mrs T. Carpenter, who helped substantially in compiling the initial files and to Dr A. Wells for much patient editorial help and advice. Dr C.N. Smithers (Sisyridae), Dr U. Aspöck and Prof. Dr H. Aspöck (Berothidae), Mr S. Brooks (Chrysopidae) and Dr K. Lambkin (Mantispidae) kindly supplied information in response to my queries. The illustrations in the Catalogue, from The Insects of Australia (New 1991), were reproduced with permission from CSIRO and Melbourne University Press. I greatly appreciate the valuable comments of the following referees: Mr S. Brooks, Dr J.D. Oswald and Dr C.N. Smithers.

Database Notes

The information on the Australian Faunal Directory site for the Neuroptera is derived from the Zoological Catalogue of Australia database compiled on the Platypus software program. It incorporates changes made to the work published on 15 August 1996 as (New, T.R., 1996)

Limital Area

Distribution data in the Directory is by political and geographic region descriptors and serves as a guide to the distribution of a taxon. For details of a taxon's distribution, the reader should consult the cited references (if any) at genus and species levels.

Australia is defined as including Lord Howe Is., Norfolk Is., Cocos (Keeling) Ils, Christmas Is., Ashmore and Cartier Ils, Macquarie Is., Australian Antarctic Territory, Heard and McDonald Ils, and the waters associated with these land areas of Australian political responsibility. Political areas include the adjacent waters.

Terrestrial geographical terms are based on the drainage systems of continental Australia, while marine terms are self explanatory except as follows: the boundary between the coastal and oceanic zones is the 200 m contour; the Arafura Sea extends from Cape York to 124 DEG E; and the boundary between the Tasman and Coral Seas is considered to be the latitude of Fraser Island, also regarded as the southern terminus of the Great Barrier Reef.

Distribution records, if any, outside of these areas are listed as extralimital. The distribution descriptors for each species are collated to genus level. Users are advised that extralimital distribution for some taxa may not be complete.


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
28-Sep-2022 NEUROPTERA 17-Aug-2022 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)