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Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Green lacewings are so abundant this year I've gotten used to finding bunches of eggs on plants all over the place. I was a bit surprised, though, when I saw that a female lacewing had visited our kitchen table and left behind her genetic legacy on the desk lamp, the flatscreen, and a ceramic pot we put our odds and ends into. I was tweaking the little egg stalk on the lamp and letting it spring back with a satisfying if inaudible twang when my daughter mentioned she had seen the lacewing the night before, how cool! She was laying eggs.

Why do insects sometimes lay eggs in inappropriate places? When the giant whitefly first invaded southern California I would see their spiral egg-laying patterns on things like trucks fairly frequently. It seemed like they, as uncontrolled newcomers in an explosion of reproduction, would lay eggs on almost anything, as if to try out potential new host materials. Now, as predator species and cultural methods have gotten some control over them, the giant whitefly sticks more to a predictable palette of host plants. So was this lacewing, like those original whiteflies, caught up in a riot of reproductive opportunism? Was she just disoriented? Or, when the time to lay eggs comes does the female have little control over the process and must use whatever substrate fate has blown her toward?

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