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Families in this order are predominantly predaceous, both as larvae and adults. Economically the Chrysopidae and Hemerobiidae are of great importance due to their attack on aphids, scale insects, etc. An early review of the food sources of the larvae of Neuroptera was presented by Killington (1936). The prey of adults is the same as that of larvae except in families Osmylidae and Sisyridae. The larvae occupy a broad habitat, some such as Ascalaphidae, Nymphidae, Nemopteridae and Mymeleontidae being found only in dust or sand; others such as Hemerobiidae, Chrysopidae, Psychopsidae and Coniopterygidae are arboreal, and families Sisyridae, Osmylidae and Sialidae are aquatic or semiaquatic. Withycombe (1923, 1924b) and Rabaud (1927) each presented early summaries of the characters and behavior of members of this order. Killington (1936, 1937) gave extensive information of the immature stages and biology of different families.
In all Neuroptera the eggs are oval in shape, sometimes flattened, and have a distinct micropylar structure. In Mantispidae, most Chrysopidae and some Berothidae they are borne at the end of slender stalks. They use a saw-like egg breaker to facilitate hatching, the form and function of which was described by Smith (1922a). The structure is thought to be a part of the amnion, which surrounds the embryo, lying over the head on the median line, and is discarded when the body is only partially out of its shell. Some researchers term this the "prelarval" skin (Clausen 1940/62).
Most Neuroptera larvae are carabiform and with few exceptions have very large, curved mandibles, by means of which the body of the prey is pierced and the fluids removed. There are usually three larval instars. A membrane only in the 1st instar closes the mouth. The cocoons are spun from a silken thread, which emanates from the tip of the abdomen. Pupation without a cocoon is found in the Raphidiidae and in occasional individuals of some Chrysopidae. The pupa lies immobile in the cocoon until just before the end of its development at which time it becomes active and exits the cocoon. Transformation to the adult is outside of the cocoon. The manner in which pupae exit cocoons varies. Some researchers report that the mandibles of the pupa are used in cutting away the circular cap, but others found that this cap is build into the cocoon by the larva and that it is either pushed off or dissolved away by the active pupa. In Chrysopidae it has been found that the pupa is able to inflate its body very much, which aids in removing the cap by pressure (Clausen 1940/62).
The larvae do not pass excrement, and the meconium is cast by the adult rather than by the prepupa or pupa. The peritrophic membrane in the form of a dark pellet envelops it. Clausen (1940) stated that the failure to void excrement during the larval period is a consequence of the type of food consumed. All predaceous species suck out the body fluids of the host, and such food material contains a minimum of solids that cannot be utilized (Clausen 1940/62).
A. G. Ponomarenko & D. E. Shcherbakov (2004). "New lacewings (Neuroptera) from the terminal Permian and basal Triassic of Siberia" (PDF). Paleontological Journal 38 (S2): S197–S203.
Engel, M. S. 2005. "A remarkable kalligrammatid lacewing from the Upper Jurassic of Kazakhstan (Neuroptera: Kalligrammatidae)". Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 108 (1): 59–62.
Grimaldi D., & Michael S. Engel. 2005. Evolution of the Insects. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-82149-5.
Hoell, H.V., Doyen, J.T. & Purcell, A.H. 1998. Introduction to Insect Biology and Diversity, 2nd ed.. Oxford University Press. pp. 447–450.