The Little Things in Life
Say Hello to Eremoides bicristatus, one of southern Africa’s owl-flies. We picked it up at the ORC research campus on Ongava Game Reserve one early morning in late August. Little did we know whom we had found. After sending photos of this lacewing (order Neuroptera) to Rolf Becker and his wife Alma, the astounding news came later that day. This owl-fly had previously been confirmed only three times in Namibia, twice at Kieris West in the Karas region in 1925 and 1994, and once at Namutoni in 1954! Beyond their striking beauty, owl-flies are also true survivors! They have been around on the Planet for 300 million years. Adult owl-flies are fast, aerial predators that hunt other flying insects. They are hard to spot though, measuring only a few centimetres in length. Whether they are rare, or just rarely noticed, remains speculation. Perching on vegetation, they typically raise their abdomen to resemble a broken twig. As more and more lacewings start emerging in Namibia now, go out and catch some. Owl-flies, or Ascalaphidae, can be distinguished from dragonflies by their long, clubbed antennae and the conspicuous dense hair on the thorax. One can't help asking what purposes their hairy bodies and bulbous antennae serve?