The World's Ugliest Land Snail Collector

   The conglomeration illustrated below was collected by David Kirsh under dead leaves near a stream at Mayo River State Park, Mayodan, Rockingham County, North Carolina during April, 2010. The snail collecting critter, which measured about 7 mm. in length, was subsequently identified as a Green Lacewing larva [Arthropoda: Insecta: Neuroptera: Chrysopidae] by Dr. Raymond J. Pupedis of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University. The land snails, which measured about 2.5-3.3 mm. in diameter, were later identified as juvenile Glyphyalinia wheatleyi (Bland, 1883) [Bright Glyph] by Dr. Harry G. Lee. Green Lacewing larva are well known "trash" collectors and are beneficial to man because of the their voracious appetite for the eggs and the soft bodies of aphids, mealy-bugs, spider mites, leafhopper nymphs, caterpillar eggs, scales, thrips, and white-flies. The lacewing larvae attack the eggs of most garden pests and, if the bodies are not to hard and fast moving, will attack the adult pest stage as well. Digital image copyright 2010 by David Kirsh.

Green Lacewing larva [Arthropoda: Insecta: Neuroptera: Chrysopidae]

    While it is unclear whether the lacewing larva consumed the snails it used as armor/camouflage, these critters do deploy the carcasses of aphid prey in a similar manner, and other insect larvae have a palate for land snails:

Coleoptera: Drilidae. These beetle larvae are essentially obligate predators of land mollusks, the shells of which they can penetrate with their powerful mandibles. Note that Drilidae E. Olivier, 1910 [Insecta: Coleoptera, based on Drilus G.A. Olivier, 1790 TS Drilus flavescens G.A. Oliver, 1790 OD] is not homonymous with Drilliidae Olsson, 1964 [Mollusca: Neogastropoda, based on Drillia Gray, 1838 TS Drillia umbilicata Gray, 1838 OD]. See Írstan (1999) http://snailstales.blogspot.com/2009/07/it-was-5-years-ago-today.html.

Coleoptera: Lampyridae. Firefly larvae directly overcome and consume the snails (LaBella and Lloyd, 1991; Symondson, 2003). See http://snailstales.blogspot.com/2005/06/fiery-predator-of-snails.html and http://www.flickr.com/photos/34597107@N02/3238874941.

Lepidoptera. Hyposmocoma molluscivora Rubinoff and Haines, 2005. This moth caterpillar, only recently-discovered in Hawaii, traps its snail prey with its silk and proceeds to consume it in the style of the firefly larva; see http://www.bogleech.com/bio-larvae.html.

Insect larvae have very recently, and for the first time, been observed to prey on/parasitize bivalve mollusks. There is a short journalistic piece on p. 10 of the September, 2009 issue of the AMNH-affiliate, Natural History. This article summarizes a report in American Midland Naturalist by Todd D. Levine, Brian K. Lang, and David J. Berg, who observed parasitism/predation by the larvae of a dragonfly [Neuroptera] known as the Sulfur-tipped Clubtail [Gomphus (Gomphus) militaris Hagen in SÚlys, 1858] on the naiad Popenaias popeii (I. Lea, 1857) [Texas Hornshell] most conspicuously involving gravid female mussels. Although a variety of mites and a few crustaceans have been reported as naiad symbionts, this appears to be the first notice of an insect/pelecypod bivalve interaction of this sort.

Írstan, A., 1999. Drill holes in land snail shells from western Turkey. Schriften zur Malakozoologie 13:31-36.

LaBella, D.M. and J.E. Lloyd, 1991. Lampyridae. in Stehr, F.W., (ed.) Immature Insects  II:427 [not seen; cited by Írstan at http://snailstales.blogspot.com/2005/06/fiery-predator-of-snails.html].

Levine, T.D., B.K. Lang, and D.J. Berg, 2009. Parasitism of mussel gills by dragonfly nymphs. The American Midland Naturalist 162(1): 1-6. July. Reference and abstract on-line at http://www.bioone.org/toc/amid/162/1; full access requires a subscription.

Rubinoff, D. and P. Haines, 2005. Web-Spinning Caterpillar Stalks Snails. Science 309(5734): 575.

Symondson, W.O.C. 2004. Coleoptera as predators of terrestrial gastropods. In Natural Enemies of Terrestrial Molluscs (Barker, G., ed.). [not seen; cited by Írstan; on website above]

Back