What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Adult Green Lace Wing bite
Location: Texas
April 12, 2011 8:52 pm
I have a question about the green lacewing. I know the larvae can have a nasty bite, but I know that I was bitten by an adult. I was bitten a few years ago but I remember it clearly. I was outside when it landed on my hand. I tried to shake it off, but it crawled up to my finger and bit it. I smacked at it and it flew away. I showed my dad and he killed it while it was sitting on a wall. The bite lasted for about half an hour,was swollen and red, and felt like a very strong pinch. after that time, it only itched badly for about an hour. I need to know why an adult woul bite, and how because I have always heard they are harmless but they obviously are not. Thanks!
Signature: any way

Green Lacewing

Dear any way,
We have never heard of an adult Lacewing biting someone, but since they are predators and their young, known as Aphid Lions, are notorious little buggers that frequently bite the unwary, we do not doubt that Lacewings might bite.  Thanks for providing such first hand knowledge of the short term affects of the bite of the Golden Eye, another wonderfully descriptive name.

Update:  We stand corrected
October 16, 2011
Thanks to the numerous comments of our readership, we concede.  It seems adult Lacewings can bite, though we maintain the bite is an annoyance and of no danger to humans.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
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53 Responses to Alleged Lacewing Bite

  1. echoorcutt says:

    I was bitten on the leg by a green lacewing this evening on my patio. I felt the bite, then grabbed it about 8 seconds later. The bite was not necessarily painful, similair to a small ant bite…but a bite nonetheless. I have always beleived these insects harmless, but feel otherwise now. I have never had a mosquito bite, nor a bee sting. I am not especially prone to bites, so this was EXTREMELY surprising to me. I will say that these green lacewings are a quite a bit larger than I have seen in the past, which gives me some concern. Thoughts, concerns?

    • bugman says:

      In our opinion, even though a Lacewing might bite a human, the bite is not dangerous, nor do we believe the bite to be intentional on the part of the Lacewing. Many insects will bite when carelessly handled, or when accidentally encountered, and since very few insects actually possess any venom, these bites are nothing more than a slight annoyance.

  2. Bug_Girl says:

    I too have experienced the bite of a green lacewing on more than one occasion. The bites I have received hurt and itch and were more than a “slight annoyance”. I had to laugh when I read, “Many insects will bite when carelessly handled, or when accidentally encountered”. In what category would you put SITTING at night, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature? BTW, they also have a horrible odor. I found this out the first time I was bit and inadvertently slapped (squished) the poor little thing.

    This site is great. My 5 year old daughter has been fascinated with bugs since birth (or so it seems) and loves when she can identify a bug she has found.

  3. The green lacewing here in central California is a vicious little stinker! It will send grown men screaming to safety. We leave them alone as they provide wonderful pest control – even after I developed an allergy to them last year!
    And, yes, they do attack for no reason at all!

    • bugman says:

      Dear notbuggedatall,
      Interestingly, while on the way to work today, Daniel felt a sting on his wrist and looked down to find a minuscule Lacewing Larva in the vicinity. Since he was driving and did not want to blow the larva out onto the road, Daniel drove to his destination as the Lacewing Larva bit a second time. A burning sensation lasted a few minutes and that was followed by a raised bump, slightly smaller than a mosquito bite, that lasted a few additional hours.

  4. warbi says:

    I too have been bitten by an adult lacewing. The bite is a sharp pain like a pin prick or an injection, but tht is all it does to me. Of course, I also don’t get bumps from mosquito bites so it may just be me. What is really annoying is that a person’s first rection is to slap at the bite. When you crush them or even annoy them enough, they release a very foul smell.

  5. rae says:

    I live in southeastern New Mexico. I have intermittently been finding bites on my legs when I wear shorts outside at night in our pecan orchard. Last night I slapped something biting me and it was an adult lacewing. I had previously noticed I would only receive bites if I had used a pomegranate scented soap, and I used that same soap for the first time in a few months yesterday. I think the lacewings are attracted to it as they were practically swarming me at dusk yesterday when I was bitten. Tonight I am out by the orchard with my iPad and a few lacewings have been attracted to it’s light, but no bites tonight; probably because I didn’t use fruit scented soap today. Nonetheless, I am glad to have the lacewings. Our pecan trees have plenty of aphids to keep them busy!

    • bugman says:

      We have long suspected that cosmetic products attract certain bees and wasps, but the Lacewing attracting properties of fruit scented soap is a new one for us. Thanks for the insight.

  6. whattheheckisthat says:

    Thank gosh for this website! I did a bit of surfing only to discover something like “lacewings are harmless to humans” or “lacewings do not bite humans” on every other site, many of them being academic… Hmmm. Anyway, I live on an almond ranch in northern California and have most of my life. I learned early on that these things do bite and do so quite frequently. In the past 20 years I’ve observed these little critters casually fluttering around me on summer nights. I quickly learned that they do this just prior to casually landing on me and then casually biting me. I say “casually” because it never seems to be direct or hurried attack like that of a mosquito. In fact, a very casual, slow-motion swat at one causes it to casually leave(last time a say “casual,” I promis). And, as someone else pointed out, they really stink! I learned not to squish then about five seconds after I learned they bite, again some 20 odd years ago. In keeping with their (cough)type of demeanor, I’ve found that should one make a successful landing all I have to do to get rid of it permanently if blow on it. I’m no expert on lacewings, but I will say that it’s gotten to the point that I readily distinguish the difference between a lacewing biting and a mosquito biting on the back of my neck based simply on sensation. Only one ever receives a slap, for smell is far worse than the bite.

    • bugman says:

      Your observations, casual or otherwise, are much appreciated. We imagine that living on an almond ranch, you appreciate the appetites that Lacewings have for Aphids. We were at first skeptical about the reports that Lacewings bite, and we like your assessment that the bites on humans are not premeditated since they have nothing to do with feeding. Though they seem to bite more than we originally thought, we still maintain that they are harmless to humans, though it also seems that it is possible to be allergic to just about anything, and some folk might have a hypersensitivity to the bites of Lacewings.

  7. Michelle says:

    Looking this up, finding this page because..I’m getting bit by these! My kids are laughing at me. They think I’m crazy, but they do bite! Central Ca. Pretty bugs..and aphids are a problem around here, so I’m going to steer clear and let them be..but dang…it is a more intense bit than a mosquito, no reaction to it..just a bit shocking for a second.
    I’m so glad I found this site and now I can take my IPad over there and make my kids read it! I’m not crazy..they bite!

    Thanks so much!

    • bugman says:

      You are not crazy. Our editorial staff knows firsthand that Lacewing Larvae bite, and in our case, there was a small swelling like a mosquito bite that lasted some time.

      • Whattheheckisthat says:

        I believe we are not talking larvae. Those little ‘aligators’ are great biters. It’s the beautiful, fluttery adults that I am currently batting away daily. They are still biting . My GF can attest to that(she has not learned to spot them or hear them yet).

        • bugman says:

          We were quite surprised to learn that some people reported being bitten by the adult Lacewings as well. Thanks for the clarification.

          • charlotte says:

            have been getting bitten by these nasty bugs went for an evening stroll and got bitten 3 times last evening . have a bite on my hand that is itching and swollen been 4 days and no sign of going away. Neighbour has been bitten a couple times this summer also . nasty bites !!

  8. Champ says:

    I live in Central Washington. The adult lacewings swarm my screen door and, if they get in the house, me. They never bother my husband… just me… maybe there’s something to be said about cosmetics… but the adults bite, it hurts, it’s casual, and they REEK when you swat one… I was looking for sites like this forever because everywhere else says the adults are harmless… ok so I wasn’t harmed… not physically… maybe just a little hurt feelings :)

  9. yf says:

    Not only do the adults bite, their bites HURT! I dread evenings outside in summer, and if one gets in the house I’m screaming for someone to kill it! We’re in SE WA and they hang out in the hops fields by our house.

  10. StillStingingInCentralCA says:

    Thanks for a great site!!!!

    I was sitting outside, enjoying the cooling evening air, reading my kindle (black screen, white lettering) in the dark, when the back of my thigh felt like a HOT, SHARP NEEDLE had pierced me! I reached down, slapped and grabbed and came up with an adult lacewing. Body 1/2″ long, with 4 wings about 3/4″ long. I grabbed the little stinker about an hour ago, and my thigh feels like it’s on fire.

    Only fair to say, I am bug candy. If there is a bug that could possibly ever bite within 5 miles of me, it will find me and have a great meal. And while the bug has its meal and goes to tell all about it, I’ll be fighting the skin infection for weeks. Ahhhh, glad I can keep the insect population in Central CA very happy.

  11. Milan says:

    So glad I found this, I was just outside walking my dog when I felt a sting on my inner forearm. I thought it was a mosquito but it was an insect I didn’t recognize. Found this while searching for it to see what bit me, what reaction to expect and to see what that horrible smell was!! So nasty and does not come off easily. Good to know it’s harmless so I’ll know for next time, this one didn’t survive but that gross smell did!

  12. eva says:

    O.K. so I too am apparently allergic to lacewing bites – they turn red and itch, and last for days. And those buggers are so small they come through the screen holes. The New York City variety of green lacewings don’t seem to smell, by the way. My questions: WHAT KILLS GREEN LACEWINGS? WHAT REPELS GREEN LACEWINGS? HOW CAN I GET RID OF THEM?

    • bugman says:

      We do not give extermination advice, especially for native, beneficial insects.

    • Melissa says:

      Eva, I have the same reaction, although it is to the lacewing larvae; I have yet to be bitten by an adult. But the bite from the larvae is simply miserable. It produces quite a fierce stinging sensation when it is biting, and then hours later it begins to itch FIERCELY. I get a nice big bump similar to a mosquito bite, but I react far worse to the lacewing larvae bite. It itches on and off for days, literally, and the itch goes very deep – I feel like I need to somehow scratch the bone underneath to get to it! I would rather have 10 mosquito bites than ONE lacewing larvae bite… that’s how bad it is for me.

  13. eva says:

    Yes, please notify me of following comments via email.

  14. eva says:

    I do understand and appreciate that you do not give extermination advice for beneficial species. But, surely there is some scent that will repel green lacewings – that is, some essential oil perhaps, that I can spray on my screens or on me that will turn them away. Do you know what that is?

    • bugman says:

      We do not know of anything that will specifically target Lacewings and will be effective in repelling them.

  15. whattheheckisthat says:

    Lacewings should be far to large to fit through any standard household screen(save hardware cloth or something of similar sort). The critters in question may not be lacewings. Regardless, try teatree oil(Melaleuca). You can also try various other extracts including, peppermint, nettle, tobacco spit, etc.

  16. Eva says:

    The biters that fit through my screens sure look like green lacewings, eyes and all, just that they’re small. Maybe the babies? Anyway, changed to yellow (anti)bug bulbs for the duration, changed to a peppermint glycerin soap and spray my screens periodically with water diluted peppermint and neem oils to which I occasionally add crushed fresh garlic. BUT, most important, when I was bitten and swelled and itching for two weeks, I applied and reapplied fresh aloe vea gel from a houseplant. What a relief! Jus takes away the itch and works for any insect bite. We also have an infestation of biting asiam lady bugs in NYC. My remedies are the same as for the lacewings. So far so good.

    • Merry Willingham says:

      I, too, have a problem with being bitten by all bugs. I have a severe reaction to mosquitos. It appears the same thing is connected to the lacewings. The bites appear as small raised bumps which itch like crazy; by the next day they are small blisters with large area of swelling. At least they were until I found Chigger-ex. Smells great & gives immediate relief from itching. I do however have the blisters for days.

  17. Cheryl says:

    A number of years ago, while living in upstate NY during the late summer, one of my cats came in from being out in the evening humidity and had a green lacewing (adult) on its back. Thinking they were harmless, I removed it gently and it jumped on my forearm and holy smokes that sucker bit me and it hurt like crazy! I assume I had an allergic reaction, because not unlike another poster reported, I had severe swelling and a burning feeling that was very unpleasant. This bite was on par with a hornet sting…..and it stayed with me for a day or two. It was definetly an adult lacewing…..I am wary of the buggers since then!

  18. ADAM says:

    I am a resident of Utah, and have been searching to find out about these lacewings. I have been bitten, at least, twice by them (unexpectedly). Once, I put my finger towards one’s head, and it purposely attempted to use its mouthparts in what seemed like a feeding manner (it merely attempted to bite that time). The bites were painful enough, and did seem to itch for a while.

    The things can jump quite significantly, and I first assumed they were a relative of grasshoppers and the like- my being unfamiliar with lacewings and their relatives. Very interesting insects. When I pointed my finger towards it, it seemed to react in a very deliberate- and I’d say intelligent- manner.

    The color of the lacewings I’ve seen, particularly one, seemed to be of a more yellow color. In each of these instances, I refrained from killing them, largely due to their interesting and unusual manner. They do have a beauty to them.

  19. Jo says:

    I live in Hamilton, New Zealand and I was bitten by a whole bunch of green flying bugs that look like Green lacewings. They were tiny as. I was mowing my lawns and they were in the tree that I was mowing under. My hands went numb and tingly for about an hour. Im so afraid that they will attack me again. I’ve never had this problem before. I really hope it was a one off.

  20. Rosemary says:

    Being bit by a small bug I did not recognize, I took picture with my phone and did some internet research and it seems to be the green lacewing larvae. I live in southern California. It was a pleasant (not hot, not cold) afternoon and I was sitting outside reading. The bite was slightly painful, similar to a mosquito and itched for a few minutes. There is a small red spot on my forearm, similar to a mosquito but smaller, that has lasted a few days. My experience seems similar to that of others. Thanks for your website!

  21. Liz says:

    Sitting in my Florida room tonight ( Lakeland, FL), I had my first encounter with this small, green biter – I felt the bite, swatted my thigh and found a tiny, green bug on the floor. The bite burned and does look like a small mosquito bite. Wondering what the heck this neon green insect was and whether I had reason to be concerned about the bite, I Googled “small, green biting bug” and found your site. Thanks for this valuable info, as others have stated some sites advise that this guy does not bite but I can attest that it certainly does! It’s been about a half an hour and the bite is a round, white welt surrounded by red skin. Hopefully, this is as bad as it gets, I learned something new tonight – I can now identify a Green Lacewing and they earned a spot on my list of bugs that I do not like!

  22. James says:

    Last night I was lying in bed watching TV when I felt an itch on my foot; much like a mosquito bite. I woke up this morning with two bites one smaller and one larger and they were itching. I put creme on it for the itch. I was a little nervous as it is not mosquito season. I recently returned from a trip and immediately feared “Bed Bug”. I came home and shook my comforter. I found an adult Lacewing in my bed. Culprit? I assume.

  23. Teresa says:

    I am so glad I found this site. I live in Central Texas and have had bad experience with the Green Lacewing. Over the past year I have been bitten several times at dusk or after. The first time was multiple times across the top of my back, I had on a scooped T-shirt. Itched like crazy, made huge welts that ended up growing until they all came together as one huge red welt. The next morning welts were gone, but the redness remained for several days. The next time was on my forehead and the welt was so big I thought I might have to go to the ER. The welt stayed for two days and then the redness started receding. At this time I really didn’t know what was biting me, but thought I was having a reaction to mosquito bites.
    Then yesterday I was bitten on my thigh and of course had the same reaction. When I was in the bathroom getting the Benadryl out, a bright green insect landed on my mirror. I had never seen one before and started looking online. Problem solved, it was a green lacewing. I guess some folks are just more sensitive, at least in my case, to their very nasty bites. I wear perfume daily and after reading all the other posts, feel strongly that this is definitely a reason for them being attracted to me. So now I will bolt from the car to the house and not go out until I wash off my perfume.

    • bugman says:

      Thanks for providing your personal experience for the benefit of our readers. We are sorry to hear that you have a bad reaction to Lacewing bites as they are a beneficial insect. Lacewings are sold by nurseries that cater to organic gardeners, but we cannot say for certain if there is a relationship between people getting bitten and the sale of Lacewings.

  24. Oleg says:

    Utah, SLC area, Sandy. Every evening I am sitting near the house the green lacewings start their hunt. Once evening was bitten twice and several more attempts were made. The only way to save myself from new attempts was to go inside.

  25. douglas says:

    I am in Washington state and what I noticed about these guys is they don’t seem to be biting you per say but I have on many occasions let them nibble on my skin at night sitting around my pool in mid summer it seems to me they are farming microbial bugs and or fungus off of the surface of your skin on average they would spend about 15 minutes moving around and nibble on some spots and they would dig down a bite but only for a second but they never break the surface of your skin not quite an ant bite if its in an area where your skin is tough its was more like a tickle at times on the back of your leg behind the knee cap it felt like an ant bite but still not breaking the skin. So it seems to me a more in depth study should be done to determine what on our skin might they be finding for their diet because the simple fact is they nibble an entire area thus making the single bite scenario less likely its more likely the case some of us don’t like the first bite and think we are being attack thus cutting their dinner time short when in fact they could just be cleaning our skin similar to many species have other creatures do like sharks and the fish that clean their teeth for them for one example. This is after all my humble observation never stop asking questions! for it is the true path to understanding.

    • bugman says:

      We were skeptical at first, but we did experience a first hand bite from a Lacewing Larva. The site was irritated for several hours.

  26. ConcernedDad says:

    I discovered my first Lacewing about 2 weeks ago. I never got around to looking it up, until just now, when I found a second one. The two I’ve encountered, didn’t even move a muscle. They are a very bright green. My concern is, if their bite is as horrid as everyone claims, how can I protect my two Sons? (Severely Autistic 3 year old and 9 month old.) The two I’ve found, have both been in my back bathroom. Have you discovered anything that helps repel them? I certainly don’t want either of them getting bit by one.

    Central Indiana.

    • bugman says:

      We do not provide extermination advice and we have not learned any information on repelling beneficial insects.

  27. Murri says:

    As I sit here and type a green lacewing sits on my index finger. A few got in tonight (ac is broke and we had the door open) I never knew what they were until tonight. I always called them faeries. I have loved them from the moment I first saw them. I’ve handled them many times. I’ve never been bitten once, nor smelled any odor coming from them. Good to know this stuff. This thing does not even move as my finger moves up and down and all over this keyboard as I write this. Almost like I made a friend. Ha! I looked closer once I saw they bit people to see it closer. It will put its mouth on my skin every now and then and I can feel it, no doubt. But no pain, or irritation occurs. It’s definitely not biting me; maybe just tasting me? What a little cutie! I’ll probably still call them faeries. Thanks for the info. I’m in Texas, by the way. I know they are in Missouri where I grew up too.

  28. Rebecca says:

    My mom thinks they’re farys and I don’t think that they are!
    Because a “fary” is always following me! Do anyone knows about it?

  29. gentlhart says:

    I bring plants into my house for the winter and I have yet to be successful on getting rid of all the pests before bringing them inside, though getting better at it. Right now, 2 of my 2 year old eggplants are getting aphids and I don’t want to spray because of over spray. I want some lacewings to handle the problem but where can I find them at this time of the year? An order of them is way too many so I decided I needed to learn how to raise some and find out where they will be hiding and started to search the net for info and found this site and thread. Growing up, they never bothered me so I didn’t bother them and later I learned they were good bugs for my garden. When I saw someone trying to kill one, I would explain to them that they were good bugs but a few said they hated them because they bite. I always assumed they got mixed up with another bug.

    • bugman says:

      If you are going to try to keep Lacewings on indoor plants, we suggest trying to collect the Larvae as they will not be flying about the house.

  30. gentlhart says:

    I had a problem with my screen and couldn’t finish my post. Anyway, one of those people was an ex girlfriend of mine. We were talking and one landed on my forehead. I left it there to see if it would bite and if it didn’t, I rest my case. It was there for a good while then I could feel it bite but didn’t hurt so no biggie but slowly it got stronger to the point it was annoying so I sent it on its merry way. That is the only time I have been bitten that I’m aware of and if I have, it was less than a mosquito bite. I have been handling the larva for many years and just found out today that they can give a nasty bite. When someone earlier mentioned the pomegranate scented soap, I thought about that as a lure then cologne was also brought up so I will probably experiment with that too. I learned something here that will help me or lead me to what I want to know. Will honey be a substitute food for the adults since flowers are scarce right now?

  31. Lacewing enemy #1 says:

    Chalk-up one more “found this web site while researching the little green devils that caused me misery” post. Yup, for the last two years I have been getting bitten by the adult green lacewing. The first bite I received was on the shoulder, and I smashed the little green devil thinking it was a mosquito. I do not recall any smell produced by the bug, but the next day the itching was intensified. Well, I was bitten yesterday, so I finally decided to see what this creature was. I am currently itching, and I decided to break the skin to drain as much ‘venom’ as possible. As someone else here has said, I would rather have ten mosquito bites than one bite from these buggers.

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