Written by Jonathan Wojcik
The ancient Neuroptera or "net winged" insects include some of Insecta's weirdest, fiercest and most specialized predators. Their delicate, beautiful adult forms a far cry from their fanged, monstrous and insidiously devious larval forms, though in many cases, just as deadly!
By far the most popular of the net-wings are the Myrmeleontidae, better known as antlions. The short lived adults, who may be herbivores, omnivores or predators themselves, closely resemble small damselflies with more prominent, club-shaped antennae. Though still quite small, these particular insects demonstrate the most extreme size difference between the larval and adult body, stretching their mass almost literally to the breaking point with an incredibly thin, fragile adult exoskeleton.
The parasite's true treachery reveals itself when the female host lays eggs. Mama spider will wrap her precious babies in a silken bag to keep predators out,, but ironically wrap up the parasite with them. At this point, the mantidfly larva undergoes a molt into a legless, far less mobile blob adapted to suck unborn arachnids from their protective shells.