Nemopteridae (Thread-winged Lacewings, etc)

This is the description of the Family Nemopteridae in the online guide to the Neuroptera (lacewings and antlions) of southern Africa

The above photo by Handre Basson is of Palmipenna aeoleoptera (Rock Spoonwing). This is a rare species and is confined to Namaqualand. This record can be found in the LacewingMAP database here.

15 genera are found the region: Concroce; Laurhervasia; Thysanocroce; Tjederia; Barbibucca; Derhynchia; Halterina; Knersvlaktia; Nemeura; Nemia; Nemopistha; Nemopterella; Palmipenna; Semirhynchia; Sicyoptera

At least 60 species occur in South Africa.


Small to large (Wingspan 25-100mm)

Adults have elongate beak-like mouthparts for feeding on pollen and nectar

The forewings are clear and iridescent in most species. A handful of species have brown or black pigmented forewings, often with white tips.

The hindwings are variously modified. Often elongate with streamer, thread, ribbon, flag, spoon or paddle-like tips. Hindwings are usually coloured in white, brown or black.

Nemopterella sp. showing the beautiful iridescent fore-wings and the modified ‘streamer’ hind wings.
Near Carnarvon, Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Nemia karooa – Note the beak-like mouthparts for feeding on pollen and nectar.
Near Carnarvon, Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Adults of most species fly during spring or early summer. A few such as Laurhervasia setacea emerge predominantly during late summer.

Some species are diurnal, whilst the majority are nocturnal and may appear at lights in large numbers.


Largely confined to arid and semi-arid environments, with low scrub vegetation. Often in open, rocky or sandy areas.


All species have predatory larvae that actively chase down their prey.

The larvae of the thread-wing types have an elongated prothorax, giving them a distinctive long-necked appearance. In some the larvae are squat and rounded with short, curved and very strong jaws. However, the larvae of many in the family are poorly known.

The larvae live in fine, dry sand, often under rock overhangs or in caves.

Tjederia namaquensis – The long-necked appearance is due to the elongate prothorax.
Cederberg, Western Cape
Photo by Handre Basson


The majority of the worlds species occur in the arid regions of the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Namibia. A few species occur in the drier parts of the North-West, Gauteng and Limpopo provinces and also Botswana.

A number of species have very restricted distributions.

An undescribed species of Palmipenna. Near Luderitz, Namibia
Photo by Jessica Kemper