Field of Science

The Red-lined Wings of South America

So far as I've been able to find, what you see above is the only published illustration of the South American lacewing Belonopteryx arteriosa, from its original description by Gerstaecker (1863) (or very nearly from there: somewhat confusingly, the plate illustrating this animal was published an issue earlier than the article describing it). It is something of a pity that the drawing is not in colour, as Gerstaecker's description indicates a quite handsome animal: about 16 mm long with a ca 20 mm wingspan* with a mostly orange head, golden yellow body and blood red veins on the wings. The first segment of the antenna was yellow, the second darker, and the remainder black. Along the medial and secondary radial veins, the red colour of the veins extended to part of the cells on either side, producing two longitudinal red stripes on each wing.

*Gerstaecker gives the body length as 8 lines, with the front wings 9.5 lines long. A 'line' is a unit of measurement used by a number of 18th and 19th century biologists. The exact length of a line seems to have varied somewhat between countries (see this page for explanations), though it seems to have generally been a little more than 2 mm. Linnaeus apparently defined a line in the introduction to Philosophia Botanica as the length of a lunule (the white half-moon at the base of a fingernail) on any finger other than the thumb.

Despite being the type of the tribe Belonopterygini, Belonopteryx arteriosa seems to have received little attention since its description. Gerstaecker (1863) held only a single female specimen, reporting its collection locality (with a precision not uncommon for his time) as "Brazil". Freitas & Penny (2001) indicated that this species was known only from three specimens from Argentina (whether this indicates that Gerstaecker's locality was mistaken, or whether this is in addition to the original location, I couldn't say). The larva of B. arteriosa has never been identified, though larvae of related genera are associated with ant nests.


Freitas, S. de, & N. D. Penny. 2001. The green lacewings (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae) of Brazilian agro-ecosystems. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 52 (19): 245-395.

Gerstaecker, A. 1863. Ueber einige neue Planipennien aus den familien der Hemerobiiden und Panorpiden. Entomologische Zeitung 24 (4-6): 168-188 (plate in issue 1-3).


  1. I just happened across your blog -- great stuff! I like systematics and I particularly enjoy the flowering plants and fungi.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Christopher,
    perhaps originally 'line' represented the diameter or thickness of a taut bowstring on an archer's bow? I'd think it fits in this way:
    L-ine singlet, lign
    Tw-ine duplet, divide, twisted line
    Tr-ine triplet, triplait, braided line

    DDeden (from Red Wing, Minnesota, North America)


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