Lacewings

( Chrysoperla carnea)



There are around 1600 species of lacewings in the world.

They can vary quite a lot is size, from a wingspan of less than 1/2 inch to 2 inches (1 - 5 cm).

They are mainly nocturnal and are preyed on by bats, but to help them avoid the echolocation ultrasound clicks of bats they have ultrasound sensors in their wings.

As with all insects (good and bad) they are also food for other insects, birds, lizards and other predators.

This beneficial insect is common in much of North America.

Adults feed only on nectar, pollen, and aphid honeydew, but their larvae are active predators.

Green Lacewing

These insects occur in a wide range of habitats throughout the U.S., and Canada and may be more useful in areas where humidity tends to be high (greenhouses, irrigated crops, southeastern and mid western U.S.).

Appearance:

Adult is pale green, about 12-20 mm long, with long antennae and bright, golden eyes.

They have large, transparent, pale green wings and a delicate body.

Adults are active fliers, particularly during the evening and night and have a characteristic, fluttering flight.

Oval shaped eggs are laid singly at the end of long silken stalks and are pale green, turning gray in several days.

The larvae, which are very active, are gray or brownish and alligator-like with well-developed legs and large pincers with which they suck the body fluids from prey, leaving just the carcass behind.

Lacewing Larvae

Often called the aphid lion.

Notice the powerful pincers and sucking tools on this larvae.

Larvae grow from 1 mm to 6-8 mm.

Habitat (Crops) and prey:

If you have a garden, you will find Lacewings in cotton, sweet corn, potatoes, cole crops, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, asparagus, leafy greens, apples, strawberries, and other crops infested by aphids.

You will find them patrolling roses, pine, spruce and other plants where prey is common.

Here is what may be on the lacewing larvae menu:

Several species of aphids, spider mites (especially red mites), thrips, whiteflies, eggs of leafhoppers, moths, and leafminers (leaf miners), small caterpillars, beetle larvae, and the tobacco budworm are reported prey.

They are considered an important predator of long-tailed mealybug in greenhouses and interior plantscapes.

Life Cycle:

Adults overwinter, usually in leaf litter at the edge of fields (another reason to keep some leaf litter).

During the spring and summer, females lay several hundred small (<1 mm) eggs on leaves or twigs in the vicinity of prey.

The larvae emerge in 3-6 days.

The larval stage has three instars and lasts two to three weeks.

Instars or stages are like molting or shedding skin so the larvae can continue to grow.

Mature third instars spin round, parchment-like, silken cocoons usually in hidden places on plants.

(Lacewing eggs to your lower right.)

Lacewing eggs

Emergence of the adults occurs in 10 to 14 days.

The life cycle (under 4 weeks in summer conditions) is heavily influenced by temperature.

There may be two to several generations per year, so you have a supply of these good insects throughout the growing

Relative Effectiveness:

The larvae are considered generalist beneficial insects but are best known as aphid predators.

Sometimes called aphid lions, they have been reported to eat between 100 and 600 aphids each, although they may have difficulty finding prey in crops with hairy or sticky leaves.

Natural populations have been recorded as important aphid predators in potatoes, but mass releases have yet to be evaluated against aphids in commercial potato production.

In small scale experiments outside the United States, lacewings achieved various levels of control of aphids on pepper, potato, tomato, and eggplant, and have been used against Colorado potato beetle on potato and eggplant.

On corn, peas, cabbage, and apples, some degree of aphid control was obtained but only with large numbers of lacewings.

Adult lacewing Research shows mass releases of Green Lacewings in a Texas cotton field trial reduced bollworm infestation by 96%.

Although more recent studies show that predation on other predators can disrupt cotton aphid control.

Can these beneficial predators help in your yard and gardens?

I think the answer is a resounding yes.

Not to mention the food they offer your birds, bats and other critters that make up "Nature's" life cycle.

A side note on chemicals:

Insects eventually develop a tolerance or immunity to chemicals.

Now we must use more and stronger toxins for the same effect and this creates an unbalance in nature, and think of all the pesticides that end up in our food and water.

By letting nature do what God intended, there will be that delicate balance.

Who cares if we have a few chewed leaves or miner damage, we all are healthier by allowing nature to take its course.

Conservation:

Because young larvae are susceptible to dessication, they may need a source of moisture.

Adults need nectar or honeydew as food before egg laying and they also feed on pollen.

Therefore, plantings should include flowering plants, and a low level of aphids should be tolerated.

Lacewings and Other Beneficial Insects

Create a Beneficial Insectary

Build a Wildlife Habitat

God's plans call for beneficial insects to control the pests.

When you Plan 'Gardening For Wildlife', plan on insects in your habitats.

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