I thought I saw a whitefly on my apartment windowsill, but I was wrong. It was a dustywing.
Unlike whiteflies, which can carry diseases and suck the sap from your garden plants, dustywings are beneficial predators. They prey on slow-moving invertebrates, such as aphids, mites, and scale insects. They also eat arthropod eggs, including corn earworms, mealybugs, and tomato hornworms.
These net-winged hunters are very tiny. Their wingspan can range from one-twentieth of an inch up to one-fifth of an inch wide. They are covered with a whitish or grayish powdery wax. They secrete that wax from glands on the abdomen, head, and thorax. [Imagine being able to create your wardrobe that way!] They have tan-colored translucent wings and short antennae. Eggs are oval, yellowish-pink to orangish, and somewhat flattened. Larvae are red and white.
Dustywings are commonly found around woody plants. They are mostly active at dusk (crepuscular) and attracted to lights. Each female can lay up to 200 eggs. These eggs are laid singly on nearby leaves and on the bark. There are two generations each year. Each larva goes through four instars. And all that growing requires a lot of food. A single dustywing larva was recorded as eating 226 red mites. That’s what I call helpful!
You can encourage dustywings to stay in your landscape by providing woody shrubs for them to live in and avoid using broad-spectrum pesticides. Have you seen dustywings in your garden? I released mine into the Seattle wilderness.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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