Megalithone tillyardi

Physical characteristics: The moth lacewing is a relatively large, robust insect that resembles a moth. The body and wings are dull brown. The body is covered with numerous long hairs. The wings are folded like a roof over the body. The larva are grublike.

Geographic range: Moth lacewings are found in Southeastern Queensland and in northern New South Wales, Australia.

Habitat: This species is found at higher elevations, often on sandy soils. Larvae burrow through soil.

Diet: It is not known what the adults eat, if they eat at all. The larvae feed on plant sap through the roots of trees.

Swarms of moth lacewings sound like a hailstorm when they hit the metal roofs of houses. Although rare, their swarms can be a nuisance when they enter homes. (Illustration by Barbara Duperron. Reproduced by permission.)

Behavior and reproduction: Adults emerge in large numbers and gather in large mating swarms made up of many more males than females. This swarming behavior may last as long as three weeks.

The females emerge from the pupa with their reproductive organs blocked with a plug. The plug is apparently removed by the act of mating.

Moth lacewings and people: Swarms of these insects sound like a hailstorm when they hit the metal roofs of houses. Their swarms can be a nuisance when they enter homes, which happens rarely.

Conservation status: Moth lacewings are not listed as endangered or threatened. As with most organisms, habitat destruction seems to be the greatest threat. However, the vulnerability of this species is difficult to determine because the larvae are hidden in the ground, and swarms of adults do not appear very often. ■

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