Beautiful Lacewing – A Gardener’s Friend

Lacewings are delicate, beneficial insects belonging to the order Neuroptera. The name of the order means “nerve wings” because this particular insect, like other flying family members of the order, have tiny veins in its wings. The veins are evenly dispersed through-out, giving the wings a “lacy-like” appearance.

Pretty but Ferocious

Walking through a garden or wooded area, one is usually unaware of the warfare going on among flying insects and crawling bugs. Dragonflies drop in like bombs scooping up unsuspecting prey in their basket-like legs. Ant lions dig pits and wait with open jaws for ants to fall into. . . . The lacewing, although she is pretty and a good pollinator, she does eat other insects that are destructive to plants, such as aphids and whiteflies. She also supplements her diet with mites and small spiders.
Lacewing - Nothochrysa fulviceps

Lacewing – Nothochrysa fulviceps

Her larvae, however, are big and stout, voracious eaters, patrolling plant stems and leaves, sucking the life out of aphids, scale insects, caterpillars, and if there are too many of them in number, they´ll each other!

Lacewing Life Cycle

As with most insects, spring is the time for newborn lacewings. Adults overwinter under leaf litter, and then come spring, the female lays hundreds of eggs near areas where there´s an abundance of aphids, scale insects, and other sources of food for her larvae to eat. After hatching, within three to six days, the larvae become ferocious predators, eating everything in their wake. Two to three weeks later, the larvae find safe hiding places under leaves of plants, wrapping themselves up into tight cocoons. In about two weeks, the beautiful lacewings emerge and start circle of life all over again.
Cartoon of a green lacewing

Drawing of a Lacewing by Donna Walker – Hearts Pest Management Blogger/Web Writer

Average lifetime for the entire lacewing lifecycle is about four weeks; in warmer climates, there may be several generations a year. Some gardeners purchase lacewings, set them free in their garden landscape, and let them perform a wonderful job of natural pest management.
Green Lacewing

Green Lacewing – Pollinator and Huntress.

Are Lacewings Ever Pests? Maybe just a little. . .

Lacewings like other members of the order Neuroptera (mantidflies, owlflies, and antlions) are often attracted to lights, congregating in large numbers. If a lacewing larva drops on you from an overhanging tree or plant, it may attempt to feed by sinking its sickle-like mandibles into your skin.
Lacewing larva

Green lacewing larva dining on whitefly nymphs.

A noticeable pinch may result but don´t worry, lacewings are not poisonous or dangerous.They only suck the innards out of insects – not humans. If a lacewing is crushed or handled, it often gives off an undesirable odor. Otherwise, this insect is a natural form of pest management against, considered beneficial in controlling damaging insects.

Article by Donna Walker

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References

Mallis, A. 2011. Handbook of Pest Control, Tenth Edition, Saunders College Publishing. Imes, Rick. 1992. The Practical Entomologist, A Fireside Book, Simon & Schuster Inc. Wikipedia. (2014). The Free Encyclopedia: Chrysoperla carnea.

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