Most humans instinctively fear insects, and a green-colored fly with netted wings might look scary to most people. But are green lacewings harmful to us in any way? Let’s find out.
Green Lacewings (Chrysoperla rufilabris) are tiny bugs with golden eyes and translucent wings.
They are usually found in gardens or landscapes to feed soft-bodied insects like aphids, thrips, spider mites, etc.
Green lacewings threaten garden pests or small insects and are a beneficial species for human beings.
However, they might bite us and leave a bit of stink behind them. Let’s talk more about these fascinating creatures!
Are Lacewings Harmful to Humans?
Lacewings are not harmful to humans. They are quite the opposite; Lacewings are beneficial insects for human beings since their primary food source is garden pests.
While adult lacewings generally avoid biting humans, the lacewing larva may try to bite human skin by accident or when they feel threatened.
Can They Bite?
Adult green lacewings only bite humans either by accident or because they feel threatened. However, their bites are not at all harmful to humans.
Thus, you don’t have to worry about getting bitten, but if you do, expect a little prick (similar to getting injected) that may lead to the following symptoms –
- Red bump or rash
However, if you are allergic to an insect bite and feel continuous pain for hours, it is better to seek medical help. Such people might develop hives and swelling and may have trouble breathing.
Even if you aren’t allergic and get a bump or rash, you can follow the steps to get rid of the redness and itching quickly:
- Wash the bump or rash with water
- Clean it with a soft towel
- Put an antiseptic cream
- Do not cover the bump, for it needs air to heal
Are They Poisonous or Venomous?
The adults are neither venomous nor poisonous. The larva of a green lacewing is venomous, but this venom is harmless to humans.
Green lacewing larvae are generalist predators who feed on almost anything that crosses their path. They are voracious predators and can feed on 200 or more insects in a week.
The minute their egg hatches, the larvae start searching for prey. These insects are easy to spot: they have brown and gray stripes and look like small alligators.
When the larva finds a suitable victim, it pierces the prey’s body with its needle-like mouthpart and injects venom into it. The venom paralyzes the prey and converts its insides into liquid.
Next, the larvae use these same mouthparts to suck in the liquified insides of the victim. Nothing remains of the bug in a few seconds except for the outer carcass.
Thankfully, this venom is not strong enough to do anything to humans.
Can Lacewing Larvae Bite Us?
Lacewing larvae, also known as aphid wolf are actually a bit more aggressive, and there are often reports of them biting humans working in the garden. It is more likely that a larva will bite you.
These larvae use their sickle-shaped mouthparts to bite their prey, but those mouthparts are too weak to pierce human skin.
Do They Transmit Diseases?
No, there is no research to show that green lacewings are vectors to any human diseases. In most cases, the adults flit around from flow to flower-sucking nectar and never come in contact with humans.
When it comes to the lacewing larva, they only feed on the liquified insides of their prey which their venom has already dissolved. So they don’t carry diseases either.
Why Do Some of Them Stink?
By now, it is clear that the newly hatched predatory larva is far more dangerous than the adults. Most of these larvae feed on common garden pests, and one, in particular, feeds on termites: the Lomamyia Latipennis.
In this species, the mother intentionally lays her eggs near a termite colony for the larva to find its prey quickly.
But what is unique about these bugs is the manner in which they immobilize their prey before killing and eating them.
These larvae release vapor from their anus, which has a paralyzing effect on their prey. These farts are so powerful that even one fart can stun as many as six termites nearby!
Once its prey smells the toxic vapor, it falls flat on its back without moving. The larva quickly moves in to use its other weapon – the deadly venom that liquefies its insides. If left untouched, the bug anyway dies within 2-3 hours.
This is one reason why the larvae might smell bad. However, another reason why lacewings stink badly is due to an entirely different reason: it is a defense mechanism for them.
They emit a substance known as skatole from their thorax, which emits a horrible smell. This is why adult green lacewings smell really bad if you startle or sneak up on them.
They are also referred to as stink flies for this very reason.
How Are Lacewings Beneficial To Humans
Green Lacewings are beneficial insects for human beings since they contribute to naturally taking out garden pests. Here are the primary food sources of lacewing larvae:
- Spider mites
- Small caterpillars
- Insect eggs
While the adult lacewings usually feed on pollen and nectar, those in the larva stage would suck several aphids and mites in a week.
For this reason, the larvae are called aphid lions or aphid wolfs. They are voracious enough to cannibalize their own if they don’t get a good food source quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are green lacewings harmful to plants?
No, green lacewings are not harmful to plants. As larvae, they, in fact, protect the plants by eating plant pests like aphids, spider mites, and thrips.
As adults, they mainly suck on flower nectar and pollen and act as pollinators for several species of plants. Thus, they are actually quite beneficial for plants and gardeners.
How do I get rid of lacewings?
If you have lacewings in your garden, it is likely that you also have a pest infestation. Lacewings are attracted to their food source, so they will come to your garden only if there are aphids, mites, thrips, and other pests already present.
Therefore, it might be best just to let them feed and clear out the infestation for you. Once the pests are gone, lacewings would leave too. You can also spray a suitable narrow spectrum insecticide on the plants that will affect the pests but not the lacewings.
Why do I have green lacewings in my house?
If you have green lacewings in your house, there is likely an infestation in your garden. The other reason might be that it flew into your home accidentally while looking for food.
Lacewings are attracted to light, so if you leave your nightlights and garden lights open at night, it is possible that they might have come into your home following them.
What are green lacewings attracted to?
Green lacewings are usually attracted to pollens, nectar, and garden pests or insects, like aphids, spider mites, thrips, etc. since they are lacewings’ main food source.
Many green lacewings are also attracted to light and can be seen sticking on lamps or light fixtures at night.
Now that you know that green lacewings aren’t harmful to you, we hope you can walk through your garden without fearing being bitten by one.
They are your little helpers that remove pest infestation from your garden free of cost. You should encourage their presence and even help it along by adding a bowl of water to your garden. Thank you for reading!
Over the years, readers have asked us this question many times – are lacewings harmful?
The answer is always a big no; these are one of the most beneficial insects for farms and gardens.
However, it is important to be careful of their bites, because they might sting you a bit.
Read about some of the experiences of our readers in the past with lacewings, especially lacewing larvae.
Letter 1 – Green Lacewing
Location: Macon GA
September 7, 2010 8:26 am
Most the pics I’ve seen don’t show the brown spots. Found her on my bathroom wall this morning.
Signature: Roofus Goofus
Hi Roofus Goofus,
Normally we would not even attempt to identify a Green Lacewing to the species level or even genus level, but the markings on your specimen seemed distinctive enough to warrant a try. We were rewarded with a match on BugGuide to Leucochrysa insularis, a species reported to be widespread in the eastern United States and Caribbean. BugGuide also indicates: “The adult of this large, handsome species is easily separated from all other green lacewings found on citrus in Florida by the presence of two dusky spots on each forewing and the unusual mesothoracic markings.“
Letter 2 – Green Lacewing
Subject: Mysterious green dragon-fly looking bug
Location: Portland, oregon
July 29, 2014 12:48 pm
We found this bug while sweeping our porch today. Both the six-year-old bug expert I was babysitting and myself could not identify this insect. Your help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you very much for your time!
Green Lacewings like the one in your image are important predators that feed upon many agricultural pests, including Aphids. Both adults and larval Lacewings feed on Aphids. Green Lacewings are sometimes called Goldeneyes.
Letter 3 – Green Lacewing from Australia
Subject: Beautiful fairy-like bug
Location: NSW , Port Macquarie
February 16, 2016 9:12 pm
This little creature was sitting on the pigs-face in January 2016. The eye is a beautiful purple colour and the wings are gossamer fine with long antennae. The body was quite a startling yellow. I live in Port Macquarie in NSW and would appreciate an ID.
This is a Lacewing, and Green Lacewings in North America are frequently called Golden Eyes. We tried searching for additional images of purple eyed individuals from Australia, and we found an image on Life Unseen that is called a Golden-eyed Lacewing, Mallada traviatus. We then searched for additional information using that scientific name and we found a nice image on Atlas of Living Australia. We wonder if the eyes on your individual are reflecting the color of the blossom upon which it is resting. Both adult and larval Lacewings are predators that feed on Aphids and other troublesome insects in the garden. Your image is quite beautiful.
Thank you very much for the information ! I am totally chuffed at the name…Lacewing…it’s EXACTLY what it should be
called, don’t you think ?
I think your musings about the colour of the eye might be right then, that the colour of the blossom was reflected straight into it. Just amazing.
Thank you for the compliment on the picture, much appreciated.
Once again , thank you for the information.
We are quite amused at the name of the plant because that blossom sure doesn’t look like a “pigs-face.”
They do have strange names for most everything in Australia. Takes some getting used to, tell you.
Lovely having dealings with you.
Letter 4 – Green Lacewing
Subject: Green fly on a warm spring night
Location: Puget Sound, WA
May 2, 2016 10:40 pm
Left the balcony door open for the pets on a warm and slightly heavy spring evening, and this attractive creature fluttered by about an hour after the door was closed and the lights turned on. We live close to a pond and shrubs. Looks like something that would be tasty to frogs or trout.
Signature: Bug Friendly
Dear Bug Friendly,
This marvelous insect is not a fly, but a Green Lacewing, and despite its somewhat annoying habit of occasionally biting humans, it is considered a highly beneficial insect because of the large numbers of Aphids consumed by both adult larval Lacewings, which are sometimes called Aphid Wolves. We recall reading that they have an unpleasant taste, which would discourage predators, and we will attempt, when we have some time, to research that information. Green Lacewings are sometimes called Golden Eyes.
Letter 1 – Aphid Lion
what is this?
Hello – could you tell us what this is? it bit my friend while sitting on a dock along a creek in NIagara Falls, Ontario Canada. Just curious, thanks
This is an Aphid Lion, the larva of a Green Lacewing..
Letter 2 – Aphid Lion
what is this bug?? T_T
I was typing by my computer & this bug was just started walking across my paper. As you can see, it is pretty small. The #2 in the picture is Verdana size 8 font. I was hoping you can tell me what it is. Please let me know as soon as possible. Thanks!
Nice photo of a Green Lacewing Larva, also known as an Aphid Lion. They are highly beneficial because of the large numbers of destructive aphids they consume.
Letter 3 – Aphid Wolf
What is this spongy-fungusy-like bug?
We are on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and have many of these strange bugs that carry things that look like sponges or fungus. They crawl on the picnic table under the oaks and pines. They look like moving bread crumbs with white legs. We are attaching a photo of one of the bugs. It’s at the upper left of the photo. Any ideas? Thanks.
You have a great website!
Margaret, Pamela and Meredith
I looks to me like you might have a photograph of a Brown Lacewing Larva, Family Hemerobiidae, known as Aphid Lions or Aphid Wolves. The larvae often cover themselves with debris including the empty skins of their victims.
Letter 4 – Aphid Lion
What is it
Sorry about not sending this last with this last email. Do you know what this is? It was on my car under a bunch of Chinese elm trees.
This is a photo of the larva of a green lacewing (family Chrysopidae, order Neuroptera). Also called “aphid lions.” They eat large quantities of aphids. Adults are sometimes called “Golden Eyes.”
Letter 5 – Blue Eyes Lacewing from Australia
Identification of ?Robber Fly and Scorpion Fly
Happened upon your site tonight and am most excited! Have bought several books and trying to identify local species in our Southern Tablelands area of NSW, Australia. Hubby and I spend a good deal of time at Bungonia State Recreation Area doing the lazy man tours of the gorgeous bush to see what interesting things we c an find…..we are never disappointed! What first started out as just native flowers and now turned into fauna and in particular, BUGS! I’ve attached two photographs taken this month and am hoping you can identify them. They’re beauties! Cheers!
Katherine & Ricky Lee
Hi Katherine and Ricky Lee,
What a positively gorgeous Blue Eyes Lacewing, Nymphes myrmeleonides, which we identified on the Geocities website. According to Wikidpedia, it is one of the largest Lacewings in the world. It belongs to the family Nymphidae and the order Neuroptera which contains other insects like owlflies and mantispids.
What a beautiful photo Katherine and Ricky Lee have taken of the Blue Eyes Lacewing! Congratulations to you both. These insects are around our place a lot lately. You can recognise them before they land by their distinctive manner of flying – as though their wings are a bit disjointed. They like to sit underneath leaves and look up and out at the world. I recall that my first email to you was about the eggs of the Nymphes myrmeleonides, which you posted on the Eggs page, so perhaps Katherine and Ricky would like to do a bit of cross checking and watch out for the eggs. Regards
Letter 6 – Aphid Wolf Carnage
Weird stinging bug Location: San Antonio, TX October 15, 2011 5:24 pm Hi, This little bug was hanging out in one of the throw pillows on our sofa. It stung my wife about a week ago, but we never saw it. A few days ago, it stung me and I caught it in the act. I managed to kill it without squishing it and got some pretty good close-up photos of it. I couldn’t find anything like it on the Internet. It appears to have 6 lets, good sized pincers on its head, and some kind of stinger on its abdomen. It’s mostly bright green, with some brownish markings on it’s top side. Any idea what this thing is?? Signature: Thanks! Steph & Mike Dear Steph and Mike, This is an Aphid Wolf. Lacewings and their larvae, which are known as Aphid Wolves, are beneficial predators in the garden that consume vast quantities of Aphids and other plant pests. We have received numerous reports of people being bitten by Lacewings as well as by Aphid Wolves, but the effects of the bite do not last long and they do not do any permanent harm. The advantages these insects bring to the garden far outweigh the annoyance of an occasional bite, and they should be tolerated.
Letter 7 – Aphid Wolf
Subject: Help identifying this nymph like insect. Location: Lapeer county, MI August 4, 2012 1:52 pm I have been finding these little buggers on the underside of my milkweed while looking for monarch eggs. They are about 1/2” long with pinchers in the front. I’m pretty sure I’ve been bitten/stung by them in the past…always feel a hot pain, and then look down to see one on my arm or leg. They always seem to show up in late summer. I believe it may be an immature stage of something, I just don’t know what; can’t find it in any of my insect books. Do you know what it is? Signature: Sincerely, Colleen Smith Hi Colleen, This is a beneficial Lacewing larva, commonly called an Aphid Wolf. they will help control the aphids on your milkweed. It is possible that a large lacewing larva might also eat a newly hatched monarch caterpillar, but older caterpillars are safe. Though it is not dangerous, the bite of an Aphid Wolf can be an irritation. Thank you for your response! Good to know they’re beneficial…glad to know that between them and the ladybug larva, my aphids will be taken care of! I’ll just have to be careful not to “run” into them….their bites smart a bit!
Letter 8 – Aphid Lion
Subject: what is this bug Location: Tucson, AZ May 8, 2014 2:07 pm I’m sitting sitting down just playing on my phone, when I felt this bug crawling on my leg. when I grab it off my leg it felt like it tried to bite me. I tried to take a picture of it, but my camera phone couldn’t zoom in close enough. So I got the best possible picture I could. Help please. I hate not knowing what things are. Signature: Michael Hi Michael, This is the beneficial larva of a Lacewing, commonly called an Aphid Lion or Aphid Wolf because of the vast quantity of the plant pests a single Aphid Lion can consume. More interesting information is available on the ACES News website, including “The green lacewing larvae, or aphid lions, have hooked jaws protruding from their heads, making them look more like miniature alligators than lions. As soon they hatch, they begin eating, injecting enzymes into their prey that digest the internal organs. They then suck out the liquidated body fluids. The larvae will eat spider mites, small caterpillars, thrips, mealy bugs, whitefly, and other soft-bodied invertebrates. Aphid lions will eat for 1 to 2 weeks before pupating in white, round, silken cocoons on concealed parts of the plant. Adult green lacewings emerge and live for 2 to 3 months. Depending on the genus, the insects overwinter in bark crevices or protected locations either as adults or in the pre-pupae stage. They emerge next spring when flowers appear. Depending on temperature and weather, there can be one to four generations per year.”
Letter 9 – Aphid Wolves in Mexico
Subject: Weird bug Location: Querétaro Querétaro, Mexico June 6, 2014 4:52 pm Greetings! I was studying outdoors inside my university campus when I noticed this strange little animal walking on the table I was writing on. This table is located alongside green areas where there is grass, trees and bushes. It is very small, around 2-5 millimeters in length, with its size and color patterns varying depending on the individual. I´ve stumbled across this animal around 6 times between February and May walking on the benches and tables of the green areas. I also know they bite. The first time I encountered one of these little animals it bewildered me so much that I let it walk on my hand so I could see it more closely. When it reached my index finger it bit me without showing any other signs of aggression. After that incident another one bit me in my arm without me noticing its presence before it bit. The feeling when it bites is comparable to when a mosquito is biting you and it only leaves some itching for some minutes (no skin reddening or weals). I took every photo indexed here inside my university campus. The one with the green background seems like it is from the same species, but it has some unique characteristics by itself, like haired sides, less pronounced fangs and awesome color patterns. I have way more photos and even videos of this little creature in case it is needed. Signature: David Chavarín Flores Dear David, These are larval Lacewings, important predatory insects, along with Lady Beetles, in controlling Aphids and other pests that plague gardeners and farmers. Lacewing Larvae are often called Aphid Wolves. While we do not have the necessary skills to distinguish one species of Lacewing Larva from another, it seems that your images represent two different species.
Letter 10 – Aphid Wolf
Subject: Daniel – Help, please? Location: Hawthorne, CA August 8, 2014 8:21 pm Hi, I was out in the back today and spotted this bug on what my seed packet says is Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba). Can you please help with identification when you have a chance? Signature: Thanks, Anna Carreon Hi Anna, This is a highly beneficial Lacewing Larva or Aphid Wolf. True to their common name, Aphid Wolves will consume large quantities of Aphids, though very young Monarch Caterpillars might also fall victims. Many folks have been writing in maligning this beneficial predator by stating they have been bitten by a Lacewing Larva. Daniel was bitten by a Lacewing Larva once, but other than slight itchiness, there was no ill effect. Thanks very much! I’ve taken pictures of Lacewing Larva before, but with the point & shoot camera and the shots weren’t as good as this happens to be. I didn’t recognize it. Anna Nice investment, that new camera.
Letter 11 – Aphid Wolf is Lacewing Larva
Subject: What’s this bug? Location: Northwest Arkansas August 8, 2014 7:34 pm Found this crawling on my phone next to a blanket that was brought in from outside. It’s August 8th 2014 and I’m in Springdale AR. Signature: Terry Hi Terry, This is a predatory Lacewing Larva, commonly called an Aphid Wolf. They are important natural predators of Aphids and other garden pests, and though we have received reports of people being bitten by Lacewing Larvae, the bite is little more than an itchy annoyance.
Letter 12 – Aphid Wolf
Subject: Who’s that Poke-Bug? Location: Dallas, TX January 12, 2017 4:35 pm I found this tiny insect in my office the other day. I know it’s an insect becasue it only has 3 pairs of legs. It walked pretty fast for those tiny legs and it seemed to have either thick antennae or pincer-like mouth. also it’s movement was similar to that of scorpions (without a stinger) and it was even able to lift its tail a little. Signature: Edwin M. Dear Edwin, This Aphid Wolf or Aphid Lion is the larva of a Lacewing. Both Aphid Wolves and adult Lacewings are gregarious predators that consume small plant feeding insects, like Aphids, in prodigious quantities.
Letter 13 – Aphid Wolf
Subject: California bug Location: California March 30, 2017 1:12 pm What is it? Signature: Ken Dear Ken, This is a predatory Lacewing Larva, commonly called an Aphid Wolf. Though they are not dangerous to humans, we have received many reports from people who have been bitten, and the effects of the itchy bite can last as long as a week.
Letter 14 – Aphid Wolf
Subject: Bug in guest bedroom Location: Texas April 2, 2017 6:52 pm Its been a week since we had company in the guest bedroom. I was cleaning up the bedding and found this bug under the quilt. It was alive and I didn’t see any others. No one has been in this room since our company left. Please tell me what it could be? Signature: Creeped Out Dear Creeped Out, You have nothing to fear. This is a Lacewing Larva, commonly called an Aphid Wolf. It is an outdoor insect that will help rid your garden of Aphids and other unwanted pests. We suspect it is not happy it found itself in your guest bed. Though we have received numerous reports from people who have been bitten by Aphid Wolves (and this includes our own editorial staff) the effects of the bite are quite localized, and limited to itching that might last as long as a week.
Letter 15 – Blue Eyes Lacewing from Australia
Subject: Dragonfly like bug Geographic location of the bug: Australia Date: 11/24/2017 Time: 05:46 AM EDT There is this bug that looks like a dragonfly but is like a noctrural bug How you want your letter signed: Oliver lee Dear Oliver, This elegant looking, but feeble flying predator is a Blue Eyes Lacewing which you can verify on the Insects of Brisbane site where it states: “They have a pair of transparent wings of about equal size. When fly, they may be mistaken as dragonflies. But their wings are fold in tent shape whish dragonflies do not do. They can also distinguished by their long antenna. Adult body is orange-brown in colour, with iridescent grey eyes. The moniliform antennae are black with pale apex. Legs are pale yellow. Their transparence wings are narrow with a white marking on the wing tips.”
Letter 16 – Aphid Wolf from The Netherlands
Subject: A nymph of some kind? Geographic location of the bug: Sappemeer, Netherlands Date: 06/12/2019 Time: 08:45 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman: Hi, This looks to be a nymph of some kind. But I have no clue what it is. At first I thought it was a ladybug nymph until I saw the picture enlarged on my computer. This was taken just a couple days ago, on June 10, 2019. How you want your letter signed: Lizzie Dear Lizzie, This is a beneficial Lacewing larva, sometimes called an Aphid Wolf after its preferred prey.
Letter 17 – Aphid Wolf
Subject: Weird bug Geographic location of the bug: Virginia Date: 11/05/2019 Time: 03:51 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman: Found this tiny bug outside while rooting through my garage, never seen it before and curious as to what it is. In the picture is the bug with a small paperclip to show size. The season is autumn, early November. How you want your letter signed: Curiosity Dear Curiosity, This is a Lacewing larva, sometimes called an Aphid Wolf. Lacewings are one of the most agriculturally important predators because of the large numbers of Aphids and other plant pests that an individual will consume over its lifetime.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Aphid Wolf attacks Ant Cows
I believe that the red bugs are aphids, but what is the segmented “thing” they are facing? It’s about 3⁄4” long. This scene was captured In a St. Louis, MO garden.
Thanks for your help.
We will be posting your spectacular photo on several of our pages, including the Food Chain. Your photo shows the drama when a Green Lacewing Larva, known as an Aphid Wolf, attacks a group of Aphids, sometimes called Ant Cows. The term Ant Cow refers to a symbiotic relationship with ants who milk the Aphids for honeydew.