Lacewings are delicate, highly beneficial insects in the garden. Lacewing larvae are frequently called aphid lions, because of their voracious appetite for these tiny pests. Lacewings also eat small beetles, scale insects, caterpillars, leafhoppers, thrips, mites and small flies. There are nearly 2,000 species of lacewing worldwide, most of them occurring in North America.
Lacewings can be brown or green, and they grow to 1/2” in length. Lacewings are named for their long, slender wings. They also have long antenna and copper-colored eyes.
Like many other predatory insects, lacewings lay eggs near aphid and other insect infestations. A single female can lay 100-200 eggs in her 6-week lifetime. The eggs are protected by being attached to white stalks that hang from the underside of leaves. Brown or yellowish-gray larvae emerge from the eggs and begin hunting right away. They feast for 2-3 weeks and then build a cocoon where they pupate into adult lacewings. In addition to many garden pests, adults also eat pollen, nectar, and honeydew made by scale insects and aphids. As they move through an area feeding, adult lacewings can help pollinate the garden.
Lacewings are most active during night and twilight hours. When lacewing larvae feed, they inject a digestive secretion that can dissolve the insides of an aphid in 90 seconds!
Lacewings are very susceptible to chemical pesticides. Rather than spraying chemicals in the garden, you can protect biodiversity by encouraging these beneficial insects. You can attract lacewings to the garden by planting (or tolerating) the following:
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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