Minute to large insects, usually with two pairs of membranous wings; wings usually transparent, with relatively few veins; hindwings the smaller pair and interlocked with the forewings by small hooks; mouthparts adapted for biting but often also for lapping and sucking; females with ovipositor modified for sawing, piercing or stinging. Metamorphosis complete. Eggs usually sausage-shaped and whitish in colour. Larvae usually apodous or eruciform, and usually with a well-developed head. Pupae exarate, rarely obtect, and usually formed in a cocoon.


Abdomen attached broadly to the thorax, with no marked constriction between the first and second abdominal segments; fore tibiae nearly always with two apical spurs; ovipositor adapted for sawing or boring. Larvae with a well-developed, strongly chitinized head and thirteen body segments; usually with three pairs of thoracic and six or more pairs of abdominal prolegs (unlike lepidopterous larvae, the latter lack crochets); one pair of ocelli; spiracles present on the prothorax (rarely on the metathorax) and on the first eight abdominal segments; faeces are excreted throughout larval life.

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