Lacewing Chronicles: Exploring the Marvels of Nature’s Pest Control Experts

Lacewings are one of the most important pest controllers and beneficial insects in the world. Here, we tell you everything you might like to know about them.

A common generalist predator in North America, Lacewings are considered to be a gardener’s friend.

There are about 1300 species of lacewings spread across 87 different genera around the world.

Lacewings are one of the most economically important families under the order Neuroptera, thanks to their ability to keep pest populations in control.

Let’s dive into it right away and find out more about these helpful insects.

Lacewing
Green Lacewing

What Are Lacewings?

Lacewings are a large group of insects under the order Neuroptera, known for their insectivorous feeding habit.

They feed on a variety of common garden and agricultural pests during the larval stage of their lives.

While there are more than a thousand different species of lacewings, we can broadly divide them into two families – green lacewings and brown lacewings.

All lacewing species share several common characteristics, such as chewing mouthparts and two pairs of wings.

Divided into three segments like all other insects, their long and thin bodies are akin to that of a dragonfly.

However, unlike dragonflies, lacewings keep their wings folded over their backs. These insects earn their name from the veins that crisscross their transparent wings to create a lacy appearance.

Types of lacewings

Green lacewings

When talking about lacewings, people usually mean the green lacewing family.

They’re much more common than brown lacewings and are often called “common green lacewings” and “common lacewings.”

Scientifically known as Chrysopidae, this family comprises several genera, among which Chrysopa and Chrysoperla are the most common in North America and Europe.

Lacewing
Green Lacewing

Green lacewings grow up to 0.50 to 0.75 inches and feature a slender, greenish body with delicate and long antennae.

They have copper-colored eyes that have earned them the name “golden-eyed lacewing,” too. Another common name for the green lacewing is “stink fly”, thanks to the unpleasant odor they release in self-defense.

Many species of green lacewings turn brown as they age, which makes them impossible to distinguish from brown lacewings visually.

Brown Lacewings

These lacewings belong to the family Hemerobiidae and share a similar appearance as green lacewings apart from the color difference.

They have brown bodies, as their name indicates. The wings may sometimes have dark spots too. Like green lacewings, the brown ones feed on various common plant pests too.

However, they are relatively rarer, and the chances of sighting them in your garden are lower too.

Lacewing
Brown Lacewing

The brown lacewing larva displays an interesting behavior – it carries various debris, including bits of its prey, using hooks and bristles on its back.

Such behavior has led to people commonly referring to these insects as the “trash bug”. By camouflaging themselves with the debris, brown lacewings can stay hidden from predators and prey alike.

How To Identify Green Lacewings That Have Turned Brown?

Some species of green lacewings change their color as they age, taking up a reddish, grayish, or brown shade.

This usually occurs during early spring, making it difficult to distinguish the color-changing species from the actual brown lacewings.

Here are some other differences between brown and green lacewings besides their colors:

  • The coastal cross veins on the wings of a brown lacewing are Y-shaped, while a green lacewing has straight and unbranched coastal cross veins.
  • In brown lacewings, the first abdominal segment is longer than the second and third ones. This makes their necks more prominent as compared to green lacewings.
  • Green lacewing larvae have an empodium (a trumpet-like appendage) between their tarsal claws and the end of their feet. This appendage is missing in brown lacewings.

Where Do lacewings Live?

Thankfully, these natural predators are present all over the world. You can find different lacewing species throughout North America.

The US and Canada house 87 different species of lacewings distributed across 14 genera.

As for their habitat, lacewings typically prefer plenty of vegetation. You’ll usually find them in wildlands, gardens, tree crops, farmlands, and fields.

This is because the adult lacewing lives on a diet comprising nectar, honeydew, and yeasts – all of which they have to collect from plants.

Lacewing

What Do They Eat?

It’s the feeding habit of the lacewing larvae that make these insects so beneficial.

Also known as aphid lions and aphid wolves due to their ability to eat hundreds of aphids, they feed on a variety of soft-bodied insects.

These include common garden pests like aphids, mites, caterpillars, mealybugs, leafhoppers, lace bugs, thrips, scales, etc.

Although not all lacewing species display an equally impressive appetite, many of the common ones can eat up to 200 aphids in a single week.

The Green lacewing adult usually feeds on plant-based foods like pollen, nectar, and honeydew.

However, some of them are predaceous and also prey on the soft-bodied insects mentioned earlier.

The brown lacewing adult and larvae are both insectivorous and can help with pest control too.

Green Lacewing

What is the Lifecycle of Lacewings?

Lacewings have a rather short lifespan, ranging from about six to ten weeks in total.

They undergo a full metamorphosis, consisting of four life cycle stages like other insect species, emerging as larvae and pupating into adults.

  • Eggs: Adult female lacewings lay about 100 to 300 eggs on average, usually on plant hairs or underneath leaves. Although a green lacewing egg is an initially pale green, it turns gray before hatching.
  • Larvae: This is the most important stage in the lacewing’s role as a natural pest control agent. Lacewing larvae range from yellow to brown, with a mottled appearance. Their spindle-shaped structure is somewhat similar to that of alligators, and they even have spines at the sides. Lacewing larvae possess strong mouthparts that allow them to kill their prey and inject them with digestive juices.
  • Pupae: After three instars and two to three weeks of development, the lacewing larvae are mature and ready to pupate. Lacewing pupae are usually green, surrounded by opaque, silken cocoons that are yellow or white. This stage lasts around five days.
  • Adults: The adults emerge at the end of pupation and live for 20 to 40 days. As mentioned earlier, they have green or brown bodies and large eyes. During the few weeks, they spend as adults, the lacewings mate and lay eggs for the next generation to hatch from.

Lacewing Larva eats Eggs

Where Do They Lay Eggs?

Female lacewings might lay the eggs in groups or singly. Many species of female lacewings lay them individually on the tips of stalks.

This helps prevent the newborn larvae from resorting to cannibalism. You may also find clusters of lacewing eggs around prey infestations.

Do They Bite or Sting?

Lacewings do not possess stingers and are, therefore, incapable of stinging. However, their bites are still painful and can cause a red and itchy bump on the skin.

This isn’t anything serious, and you’ll lose the bump and the discomfort within a day.

Adult lacewings don’t bite humans very often, but the larvae might get provoked if you come in contact with them while working in the garden.

Are They Poisonous or Venomous?

Although their bite can be painful, lacewings aren’t venomous or poisonous. The itchiness and the bump are caused by the caustic acid in their saliva.

Although the saliva is corrosive enough to break down their prey and make them more digestible, it doesn’t pose much of a threat to humans.

Lacewing

Are They Harmful to Humans as Pests?

Lacewings are quite the opposite of what we’d define as a pest. Many gardeners even buy lacewings or raise them from eggs to use for pest control purposes.

With their seemingly insatiable appetite and their tendency to lay hundreds of eggs, lacewings can quickly clamp down on garden pests.

If you find lacewing eggs in your garden, you can spread them around plants prone to pest infestations.

Can They Come Inside Homes?

Lacewings generally tend to live outdoors, where they can easily find suitable food sources.

However, the adults often enter homes in autumn and winter, drawn by the warmth.

They seek cozy hibernation sites around this time, and warm indoor environments are perfect for this.

What Are Lacewings Attracted To?

Adult lacewings are typically drawn to places with a variety of colorful flowers. As mentioned previously, they need pollen and nectar to sustain themselves.

If you’re trying to attract more lacewings to your garden, planting flowers like Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, marguerite daisies, cosmos, and yarrow should help.

Brown Lacewing

How To Get Rid of lacewings?

You don’t need to get rid of lacewings from your garden as they’re harmless and help protect your plants from pests.

However, if too many of them start entering your home during the colder months, it might pose a problem. The best way to get rid of them is to pick them up by the wings and gently release them outside.

If there are too many lacewings for manual removal, you may consider using pest control products instead.

Interesting Facts About lacewings

Before I end finish, here are some interesting facts about these delicate insects that you might want to know:

  • Lacewings kill their prey by piercing them with needle-like teeth and injecting digestive juices. The juices dissolve the prey’s body from the inside, which the lacewing can then suck up.
  • Adults have ears located at the base of their wings and are capable of hearing the echolocation signals released by bats. This gives them time to close up their wings and potentially avoid detection.
  • When lacewings feel threatened, they release an unpleasant smell. It helps them deter predators from eating them.

Wrapping Up

I hope you enjoyed learning about this delicate insect and that the article has answered all the queries you had about them.

If you’re a plant parent, feel free to get some lacewings in your garden. By feeding on adult pests, their larvae, and insect eggs alike, they’ll significantly reduce your pest control expenses.

You’ll have to stay away from using pesticides, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll manage to include lacewings in your pest control strategy.

Aphid Wolf

Reader Emails

Over the years, lacewings have been a hot topic for our readers.

They have asked about various things related to these beneficial insects, including where they live, what they eat, and even where to buy lacewing eggs or how to bring them to gardens.

Please go through some of these emails, and they might help you learn an additional thing or two about these beautiful bugs.

Letter 1 – Camouflaged Lacewing Larva

Subject: Looks like tree moss
Location: NE FL
November 12, 2013 4:17 pm
This bug is about 1/4” across and bites!
Signature: Curious

Camouflaged Lacewing Larva
Camouflaged Lacewing Larva

Dear Curious,
On the lower portion of one of your somewhat blurry images, it is possible to make out the mandibles of the insect that created this elaborate protective covering from debris.  This is a camouflaged Lacewing Larva, and we have received numerous reports of people being bitten by Lacewings and Lacewing Larvae.  Both adults and larvae are predatory and they are important natural predators of Aphids and other plant pests.  Lacewing Larvae are called Aphid Wolves and Green Lacewings are sometimes called Goldeneyes.  

Letter 2 – Camouflaged Lacewing Larva

Subject: Mysterious Blackberry-Shaped Bug
Location: Murphys, CA (central-eastern California)
July 28, 2015 3:43 pm
Hi,
A friend of mine recently found a strange bug inside a cabin she’s staying at for the weekend, and we’ve been trying to find what kind of insect it is but with no luck. It moves slowly, is slightly smaller than a dime, and is covered in shiny black bumps, so that it almost looks like a miniature blackberry. We can identify small pincers but she wasn’t able to see how many legs there were. Someone mentioned that it could be a transport unit for ticks, but I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Signature: Winslow

Camouflaged Lacewing Larva
Camouflaged Lacewing Larva

Dear Winslow,
This is a predatory Lacewing Larva, and larval Lacewings frequently camouflage themselves with the carcasses of prey.  It appears as though your individual has been eating Black Ants, which explains its resemblance to a blackberry.

Letter 3 – Camouflaged Lacewing Larva

Subject: What on earth?
Location: Atlantic county NJ
July 15, 2016 6:37 am
Hello, I saw this and thought it was some dirt or something until I saw it crawling. Then I saw it’s little legs and pincers. I live in egg harbor Township in southern new Jersey about 10 minutes away from the ocean. It’s mid July and morning time. I tried to blow it off of my daughters bowl but it had quite a grip! So I knocked it off with a strawberry runner lol.
What on earth is it??
Thanks for your awesome website, I’ve been a fan for years!
Signature: Sonja E. Keiser

Camouflaged Lacewing Larva
Camouflaged Lacewing Larva

Dear Sonja,
This is a camouflaged Lacewing Larva.  According to BugGuide:  “It seems that the trash carried by these larvae confers some protection against predatory lady beetles.”

Letter 4 – Camouflaged Lacewing Larva

Subject: A walking cocklebur only uglier
Location: Pinellas County, Florida
September 27, 2016 9:13 am
Hello,
Several days ago I released some ladybugs on my milkweed plants. They have all disappeared, which is befuddling as the plants are in an enclosed pool cage and there is a generous supply of aphids to munch on. Today (September 27, approximate temperature 87° ) I noticed these beauties. I can’t imagine this is any part of the ladybug lifecycle. I was wondering if you might know what they are? They appear to be about the size of a pencil eraser and seem to get around quite well. I can’t tell if they are eating the aphids or not, although that would be great.
Signature: Melanie W.

Lacewing Larva
Lacewing Larva

Dear Melanie,
While you might be distressed at the disappearance of your Ladybugs, you should be aware that Lady Beetles can fly and they can also be adept at squeezing through small openings in your enclosure.  On a positive note, this is a camouflaged Lacewing larva, sometimes called an Aphid Wolf, and many gardeners believe Lacewings, both adults and larvae, are more effective at eating Aphids than Lady Beetles are.

Letter 5 – Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva

Have I discovered a new bug?!
The diameter of the ball on top looks like mabe 1.5 mm. When not walking it retreats to some extent under it’s ball. When it walks, viewed from above it looks as though it is riding on wheels, so perfectly smooth is its motion. I found it in a canyon in Los Angeles. Thank you very much.
Terry Payne

Hi Terry,
This is a Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva. Some Lacewings carry debris, including the carcasses of prey, as protection and camouflage.

Letter 6 – Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva

Need bug identification please
Hi, my husband and I discovered the weirdest, oddest bug we have ever seen in our lives tonight. See attached pics. At first we thought it was some sort of spider with a whole bunch of dead ants on it’s back, but then discovered that it has jaw-type pinchers. It’s like a moving junk bug with a mess of “stuff” on it’s back. I actually saw it take a part from a dead ant that fell off of it’s back and put it in it’s pinchers and reattached it to it’s back. It’s like it was camouflaging itself (?). The bottom of it looks grey and from what we can tell, there’s no tail – just “junk” and ant parts on it’s back. It seems to be able to crawl & attach to anything and crawl around. It’s pretty small, about the size of an eraser on the top of a pencil. Thanks in advance – we’re real curious to know what this is!
Angela
Dallas, Tx

Hi Angela,
This is a Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva. Not all Lacewing Larvae exhibit this characteristic. Some Green Lacewings in the Family Chrysopidae exhibit this behavior, and BugGuide has numerous images.

Letter 7 – Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva

Okay, what’s this one?
Thank you Daniel,
I was surprised and gratified to hear from you – and of course you’re very welcome to the photo! I have a few additional shots for you – and I don’t have any idea as to what this might be. This tiny critter had evidently glued a lot of other bug parts (even a few minuscule snail shells) onto its back and was waiting to ambush something even smaller when he first caught my eye. Any ideas?
Henry

Hi again Henry,
This is a Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva. Some Green Lacewings in the family Chrysopidae have larvae that camouflage themselves with debris, including the remains of their prey.

Location Request: (07/18/2007) Debris carrying lacewing larva
Hi Daniel,
I wanted to tell a malacologist friend about the neat larva that has some snailshells cemented on him. Did Henry tell you where it was from? The small white shell seems to be a Vallonia, I think maybe Vallonia eccentrica. Thanks,
Susan

Update: (07/18/2007) Lacewing location
Daniel,
I took those shots in Titusville, Florida, about six or seven years ago. I saw several at that time, but haven’t noticed any more since then, which is too bad, since I could probably take better photos now. Again, thanks in advance, – and keep up the good work! Henry

Letter 8 – Debris Carrying Green Lacewing Larva

Bug with carapace made of OTHER BUGS!!
Mon, Oct 13, 2008 at 6:03 PM
Dear What’s That Bug Man, my computer just crashed, so if you’re seeing this email for a second time, that’s why. This very tiny (about 1/2 the size of my little fingernail) bug is, from the underneath (not shown in these photos), gray and somewhat louselike. From above, it appears to be wearing a little house made of DEAD, OTHER BUGS. The false carapace is topped with a whitish object–an egg? From the side, I can see its little legs–a lot of them–and pincers, but I can’t tell if the pincers are its own or belong to one of the dead bugs. You helped me once with my Very Special Spotted Bug (an ironclad beetle) and I hope you can help me again! Thank you! p.s. I love the updated website!
Kaila W.
Dripping Springs, TX (west of Austin)

Debris Carrying Green Lacewing Larva
Debris Carrying Green Lacewing Larva

Lacewing Larva

Really? Well all right then! We have lacewing eggs all over the place, even inside. But what the heck is up with it carrying around the little house made of dead bugs? Do you have information about this? It’s quite fascinating. And quite bizarre. I desire explanation on top of identification! But perhaps I can do that for myself, now that I know what bug to research!
Thank you so much for your speedy reply! Your website is one of my constant favorites.
Kaila

Hi Kaila,
We often write a very short response before doing a lengthier answer for posting. This is a Green Lacewing Larva. Some species carry debris like your specimen. According to BugGuide: “It seems that the trash carried by these larvae confers some protection against predatory ladybeetles. “

Letter 9 – Debris Carrying Green Lacewing Larva in Australia

Friend of The Ants
January 15, 2010
This unidentified creature was found along an ant trail in the window frame of our bathroom in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney, Australia. Although it looks like a lump of glue with some dirt sticking to it, underneath is has six widely spaced white legs with which it moves very slowly. There were two or three of these hanging about with the ants. Any ideas?
Thanks, Jane
Coastal Region, Sydney, Australia

Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva
Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva

Hi Jane,
We believe this is a Debris Carrying Larva of a Green Lacewing, and we don’t think it is a friend to the ants.  It may be preying upon the ants.  According to BugGuide:  “It seems that the trash carried by these larvae confers some protection against predatory ladybeetles.
The Insects of Brisbane website also contains some images of the larvae and adults of species from Australia.

Letter 10 – Debris Carrying Green Lacewing Larva

wierd bug
February 15, 2010
i was sitting on my steps and what looked like a piece of cat food i flicked with my finger and then it started to move on the carpet outside its red with geen spot
robert r
thonotosassa,florida

Debris Carrying Green Lacewing Larva

Hi Robert,
We received two letters today requesting that we identify this Debris Carrying Green Lacewing Larva.  The larva carries debris as both camouflage and protection.  You can see a photo on BugGuide with the larva showing.

Letter 11 – Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva from Guatemala

Subject: Corpses bearing insect
Location: Guatemala, Lake Atitlan
August 4, 2017 9:21 pm
Dear bugman,
one night i saw what looked like a ball of fluff walking in my room.
I garbed my macro lens and discover it was actually some kind of insect, bearing corpses of other insects. It measure between 5mm long and look a bit like an ant.
WTB?!..
Signature: David

Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva

Wow David,
Your image is awesome.  This is one of the best images we have ever received of a debris-carrying Lacewing Larva.

Thanks for the kind words and the identification. 🙂
It is indeed a lacewing larva. Do you know wich region of the world it can be found ? I saw pictures from Europe and America. Seems like a quite common insect, but it is the first time i saw one of those.

Apparently there are debris-carrying Lacewing Larvae in many parts of the world, including Australia.

Letter 12 – Debris-Carrying Lacewing Larva

Subject:  Bug wearing a ghillie suit?
Geographic location of the bug:  Central Oklahoma
Date: 10/03/2017
Time: 04:45 PM EDT
My mom brought me this bug cause usually I can identify them for her, sometimes with the help of Google and this website lol.   But I’ve never seen anything like this.  It looks like a bug covered in debris, but I can’t scrap off the debris…  I have a video of it and tried to get pics, but it’s so small picture is difficult
How you want your letter signed:  Brandon Boudreaux

Debris-Carrying Lacewing Larva

Dear Brandon,
This is a predatory debris-carrying Lacewing Larva.  The larvae of Green Lacewings often camouflage themselves with debris including carcasses of their prey.  Your individual has adorned itself with the carcass of an ant. 

Update:  December 1, 2017
Awesome thanks a bunch!  Shortly after I posted this I had the idea to Google “debris bug” cause I had no idea what would use literal debris and body parts.  We discovered it was a lacewing larvae and we were so intrigued.  I went out and put him on a plant in our garden and we watched him climb around for a few minuts.  We actually got to watch him eat aphids as well!  It was so cool to see life on such a small scale still taking it’s course as normal, like I wasn’t even watching!

We wish we could get away with checking our emails every two months.

Letter 13 – Debris-Carrying Lacewing Larva

Subject:  Bizarre Bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Atlanta , Georgia
Date: 03/13/2019
Time: 08:48 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found on backyard wood deck. It is March. Found three others similar last year. Bug has on its back what look like crystals. It leaves strange residues on Petri dish. Scuttles quite fast. Very strange formations or perhaps its got stuff stuck to it? Or, is it carrying babies, or its lunch? Spider-like legs, pinchers, hairs on legs. 6 legs I think. Very bold stripes on face. I’m terrified.
How you want your letter signed:  C.McElhenny

Debris-Carrying Lacewing

Dear C. McElhenny,
This looks like a Debris-Carrying Lacewing larva.  They are ferocious predators and though we have received reports of people being bitten by Lacewing Larvae and by adult Lacewings, we have not gotten any reports of anyone being bitten by a Debris-Carrying Lacewing larva.

Letter 14 – Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva

Subject:  What in the world?
Geographic location of the bug:  TN
Date: 08/24/2019
Time: 02:07 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi! Just sitting around with my daughter looking out the window and saw this thing crawling outside. I googled 4 ways to upload the picture to identify it I don’t do it often just curious as to what this is. Thank you
How you want your letter signed:  S.

Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva

Dear S.,
This is a Debris Carrying Lacewing larva.  Some Lacewing larva construct shelters constructed of plant refuse, the carcasses of prey and other debris that helps to protect the larva.

Oh my gosh! You are amazing

Letter 15 – Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva

Subject:  Strange bug
Geographic location of the bug:  North Central Mississippi
Date: 07/25/2021
Time: 05:47 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Thank you for ID from your website
How you want your letter signed :  D Castle

Debris Carrying Lacewing Larva

Dear D Castle,
This is a beneficial, predatory Lacewing Larva.  The Debris Carrying Lacewing larvae of some species cover themselves with debris for both camouflage and protection.

Letter 16 – Giant Lacewing

whats this bug ?
This bug has been hanging out on our living room ceiling for 3 days, in the same spot !? It’s just over an inch in length. We live in Kamloops B.C. Canada, and were wondering if you know what it is? We think it’s some kind of moth but we are curious to know more about it,considering its decided to move in with us : ) We attached a better, bigger picture…. hope it helps.
Heidi and Keiffer

Hello there Heidi and Keiffer,
This is a Giant Lacewing, Polystoechotes species. These are the largest North American Neuropterans. At night they are sometimes attracted to lights which probably explains its presence in your home. According to the Audubon Guide, little is known of the life cycle.

Letter 17 – Giant Orange Lacewing from Australia

Subject: Yellow Dragonfly moth
Location: Woy Woy, New South Wales, Australia
January 7, 2015 4:12 am
This dragonfly looking insect flew in at about 9:30pm while very dark outside and was attracted to the light like a moth, however it looks much like a dragonfly. I’m living in the Central Coast about 1.5 hours north of Sydney.
Signature: Dean

Giant Orange Lacewing
Giant Orange Lacewing

Hi Dean,
We quickly identified your Neuropteran as a Giant Orange Lacewing or Blue Eyes Lacewing,
Nymphes myrmeleonides, on the Brisbane Insect website 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.”  According to OzAnimals:  “It is one of the largest lacewings with a body growing to about 4 cm long and wingspan of up to 11cm. Despite the large wings, they are not strong fliers.”

Giant Orange Lacewing
Giant Orange Lacewing

Hey there,  I just about 10 to 15 minutes ago submitted a photo post about a “dragonfly moth looking insect” however I’ve just been browsing online and have stumbled across the identification myself it being a “blue eyes lacewing”. So just letting to know thats one submission you dont have to worry about anymore. 🙂
Signature: Dean

Letter 18 – Lacewing Carnage

Smelly Green Fly
Hi,
I’m from Wisconsin and this fly landed on my desk out of nowhere. I squished it and it instantly released this smelly odor. I’ve never seen anything like this. It smells similar to a musty old basement (if not worse). Can you tell me what kind of bug this is? (Pictures are attached) Thanks!!
Maggie

Hi Maggie,
If you hadn’t squashed this beneficial Lacewing, your sensitive nose would not have been subjected to the offensive odor it emitted as a defense mechanism. Lacewings are important biological control agents for Aphids, which if their populations were left unchecked, just might overpopulate the planet. We are going to take the liberty and be blunt here. If someone squashed you, you probably woundn’t smell very good either.

Letter 19 – Lacewing Carnage: Smashed for entering home

Blue bug with translucent wings
September 6, 2009
I was laying in bed with the TV on at night and my cats kept indicating there was a bug (they usually meow a certain way). I looked at the ceiling and could see the shadow of some sort of flying bug. I turned the light on and the bug was not there. I looked hard for it and couldn’t find it. I turned the light and a minute later the cats were freaking out again. I looked up and there was the shadow. I turned the light on again and I could not see it. So I stood on the bed and looked closer at where the shadow at been. There was a small flying bug, about an inch long and maybe 2 inches or width, with almost translucent blue/green wings. I killed it immediately but it was odd b/c I’ve never seen anything like that.
Marti
SW Missouri (Ozark, MO)

Lacewing smashed for no reason
Lacewing smashed for no reason

Dear Marti,
This Lacewing is a [relatively] harmless, beneficial predator and it did not deserve to be smashed for entering your home.

Letter 20 – Thai Caterpillars identified as Leopard Lacewings

Caterpillar
I saw these caterpillars while on vacation on the island of Samui in Thailand. I thought they were beautiful and wanted to know more about them.

We have no idea what these caterpillars are, but they are so beautiful, we are posting the letter hoping someone will identify them. If we were on a game show and had to venture a guess, we would say a butterfly in the Nymphalidae Family. Certain members of that family have spines and social behavior, like the Mourning Cloak.

(04/10/2007) Caterpillar Identifications
Hello WTB,
Having reared and photographed several hundred species of butterflies (no time for moths) for the past 25+ years, I thought you’d appreciate knowing two IDs that I noticed while quickly scanning your caterpillar pages last night . . . Thai Caterpillars (01/24/2006) — “Leopard lacewing”, Cethosia cyane (Nymphalidae, Heliconiinae, Acraeini); larval foodplant: primarily Adenia and some Passiflora (both Passifloraceae). See photo of adult and caterpillar at < http://www.hkls-forum.org/viewtopic.php?t=671 > . I hope this information is helpful and of some interest. Best wishes,
Keith Wolfe
Antioch, CA

Letter 21 – Leopard Lacewing and Jewelled Nawab Butterfly from Malaysia

Subject: Penang Butterfly Farm
Location: Penang, Malaysia
February 7, 2016
Here are the adult’s. The one with more colour I think is the male.
Best wishes,
Aeve

Leopard Lacewing
Leopard Lacewing

Dear Aeve,
Thanks for sending some butterfly images to accompany the Caterpillar image you sent previously.  One image appears to be a male Leopard Lacewing,
Cethosia cyane, but we believe the other image is another species of Brushfooted Butterfly.  We quickly identified it as a Jewelled Nawab Butterfly, Polyura delphis, thanks to Getty ImagesLearn About Butterflies uses the common name White Nawab and states:  “The butterflies are characterised by their distinctive wing shape with twin tails on the hindwings, a feature strongly reminiscent of the African Charaxes. Most have dark brown uppersides with bands of dazzling creamy white which vary in size and shape from one species to another. These bands are usually repeated on the underside in a beautiful shade of pale green, but in the case of delphis the underside is white, and marked with orange, yellow and grey spots and lunules, hence its alternative name the Jewelled Nawab.  Polyura delphis is one of the scarcer species, and is found in Assam, Sikkim, Myanmar, Thailand, peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Sabah, Brunei, Kalimantan, Palawan and Java.”

Brushfooted Butterfly
Jeweled Nawab Butterfly

Letter 22 – Ribbon Winged Lacewing

What’s That Bug?
Dear Bugman,
What a fantastic site you guys have!!! I just found out it the pic I sent is a Ribbon Winged Lacewing, a Neuropteran – could you help with the species id? Have now attached another pic, which presumably are its eggs (since they have the characteristic stalk-shape, just like other lacewings). Best,
Nick

Hey Guys, I stay in Mumbai, India and found this fly (?) in my house. At first glance, it looks like a large mosquito but has these two long appendages that stream behind it as it flies around in a seemingly “drunken” fashion, ducking and weaving crazily about. Been trying to identify it for a few days and hit upon your site. I’m afraid its not a very good photo but here goes anyway…
Nick Chatterjee,
Mumbai, India

Hi Nick,
Your three emails came in rapid succession. The egg photo was not attached, but we are thrilled to post the other two images of the Ribbon Winged Lacewing.

here is the egg photo again….

Letter 23 – Two Neuropterans from Capetown: Antlion and Ribbon Winged Lacewing

Still Unidentified
Hey Guys,
I’m living in CapeTown, South Africa and stayed in Cederberg for a week in December 2005 I managed to capture a dead species of one unidentified insect (which looks like a dragonfly/normal flying insect with its second pair of wings slightly modified)and missed the other (which resebles a cross breed butterfly/dragonfly??), but i did manage to capture them both on camera. Please could you have a look and see if you’ve ever come accross something similar or the same. I have contacted our Dr’s at the museum of CapeTown SA. but i still havnt recieved any reply yet??? Anyway maybe you guys could come up with something and hopefully get back to me. Many thanks
Clyde Phillips

Antlion Ribbon Winged Lacewing


Hi Clyde,
One of your exotic insects is an Antlion. We are going to see if Eric Eaton will help us on the long tailed specimen. Here is Eric’s input: ” With the antlion is another Neuroptera, actually, but I can’t blame anyone for not having a clue. The Nemopteridae family is so bizarre. These are the spoon-winged, ribbon-winged, and thread-winged lacewings. I believe they are all found only in the Old World. The larvae are REALLY strange, many of them looking like giraffe-necked versions of antlion larvae!”

Many Thanks for your speedy reply, I have to say that I am a little too excited than I should be…lol, but its great to know that I’m not the only one that has seen these insects… You have a brilliant site and is great for the “ento-enthusiasts”, will be definantly spreading the word about your site, its a warm welcome from the far cry of insect websites. Many thanks and kind regards
Clyde Phillips

Letter 24 – Ribbon Winged Lacewing

Long hindwings!
Hello,
This is an amazing insect with very long hindwings (not used in flight). At fist I thought they might be long halters, making it a fly or a mosquito. Then I noticed the net-forewings, and the resemblance to insects in the Neuroptera order. Any idea what it is? This photo was taken in Jordan.
Thank you.
Jarir

Hi Jarir,
Ribbon Winged Lacewings, also known as Thread Winged Lacewings, Spoon Winged Lacewings, or Thread Winged Antlions, are in the order Neuroptera. They are old world insects in the family Nemopteridae. Here is a nice link to some images of Lacewings on Stamps.

Letter 25 – Ribbon Winged Lacewing from Turkey

bee or butterfly? (neuroptera or lepidoptera?)
Thu, Nov 6, 2008 at 4:53 AM
we photographed this fairy like bug in a forest near Izmir Turkey. it is not a strong flyer. only seen on spring time. head and legs look like a bee, but it has beautiful wings like a butterfly. is it a known specie?
Thank you..
aegean sea coast, west anatolia, izmir, turkey

Ribbon Winged Lacewing
Ribbon Winged Lacewing

Dear Reader,
This is a Ribbon Winged Lacewing in the family Nemopteridae and the order of Neuropterans.  We have no idea what the species is and a cursory search did not show any matching images online.  Ribbon Winged Lacewings are also commonly called Thread Winged Lacewings, Spoon Winged Lacewings, or Thread Winged Antlions.  Your photos are quite lovely and they have jumped the queue of letters that arrived November 5.

Ribbon Winged Lacewing
Ribbon Winged Lacewing

Letter 26 – Ribbon Winged Lacewing from India

Subject:  Which insect is this? Pls tell if its harmful ?
Geographic location of the bug:  India ; U.P.
Date: 04/03/2018
Time: 06:22 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Please identify this insect and tell me   about it
How you want your letter signed:  Imrose

Ribbon Winged Lacewing

Dear Imrose,
This is a Ribbon Winged Lacewing in the family Nemopteridae, and we believe it might be in the genus
Chasmatoptera because of a drawing posted to Wikipedia.  It is not harmful.  Lacewings are predators that will help control populations of other insects. 

Ribbon Winged Lacewing

Letter 27 – Spoonwing Lacewing from Greece

Is this a butterfly, cranefly or what?
April 29, 2010
These insects emerged recently (April – springtime) in the meadows here. They look and behave similar to butterflies except that the second pair of wings appear elongated to form tails. They are blue-green in colour with darker markings. They seem to favour the various grasses. They were quite difficult to photograph and the images are not very clear, but you should be able to see the basic shape. I also took some video.
Sue Lilley
Southern Peloponnese, Greece

Spoonwing Lacewing

Hi Sue,
Even with the blurriness of your photo, we are quite certain this is a Spoonwing Lacewing in the family Nemopteridae.  We posted an example from nearby Turkey this past June.
The Nemopteridae website devoted to the family identifies it as Nemoptera bipennis.

Hi Daniel, thanks very much for the info on  spoonwing; its been driving me mad not knowing, yours gratefully sue

Letter 28 – Spoonwing Lacewing from Greece

Subject: Flying harmless thing on my balcony
Location: South – eastern Attica, Greece
May 16, 2014 9:57 am
I have seen many of those things flying around the countryside, but I was always wondering what exactly is that thing. To me as a kid, it was a hybrid of butterfly and mosquito(haha), but when I grew up I realise that this is not possible, so I came up with an other idea. I suspect that this is a kind of “liveloula” (dragonfly).
Signature: I do not understand that question. By the person who will find out what that thing is….

Spoonwing Lacewing
Spoonwing Lacewing

This unusual creature is a Spoonwing Lacewing, possibly Nemoptera bipennis.  Your individual is missing one of its distinctive tails.Hello Daniel,

Thank you very much for your reply. I really appreciate it. Unfortunately this little guy died during the night, for unknown reasons, but at least now I know the name of this beautiful insect. I am sorry about the missing wing/tail I forgot to mention about it, but you figured it out anyway…
Best regards,
Anastasios

Letter 29 – Spoonwing Lacewing from Greece

Subject: Please identify this insect for me
Location: Attica, Greece
May 2, 2016 12:07 pm
Hello, I saw this very interesting creature flying above me, than managed to catch it on cam. Do you know what it is? I’d really appreciate it.
Signature: George

Spoonwing Lacewing
Spoonwing Lacewing

Dear George,
This delicately beautiful insect is a Spoonwing Lacewing or Threadwing Lacewing in the genus
Nemoptera.

Thank you so much for your quick response, you are awesome!
George

Letter 30 – Thread-Winged Lacewing

Butterfly ?
Location: Perge nr Antalya Turkey
May 30, 2011 2:07 pm
Saw this ”Butterfly” on a trip to the ancient ruins of Perge in Turkey, near Antalya. Was spotted in late may around mid day. Have tried to look it up on various site but have had no luck!
Signature: Matt

Thread-Winged Lacewing

Hi Matt,
We have, in the past, identified creatures like this as Spoon-Winged Lacewings, but a new web search has turned up the common name Thread-Winged Lacewing,
Nemoptera sinuata, on a photo taken in Turkey on the TrekNature Website.

Letter 31 – Thread-Winged Lacewing from Spain

Subject: CAN ANYBODY IDENTIFY THIS BUTTERFLY PLEASE?
Location: SOUTHERN SPAIN
June 22, 2012 4:45 pm
Hello,
I photographed this butterfly on the mountains above Benalmadena (Spanish Costa Del Sol) early this week but I have no idea what it is and Googling ’Long Tailed Butterfly’ does not bring any results.
The photo shows the underside of it’s right hand wings and the very long ’tails’ which must surely help in identification.
Do these long ’tails’ have a scientific name?
Many Thanks in anticipation.
Signature: Peter

Thread-winged Lacewing

Hi Peter,
Though it looks like a butterfly, it is not.  Rather, it is a Thread-winged Lacewing or Ribbon Winged Lacewing,
Nemoptera bipennis, which you can view on the Panoramio website as well as numerous other places on the internet.

Wow, I had no idea it wasn’t a butterfly. Many thanks for your reply – and so quick too!
Best Regards
Peter

Letter 32 – Thread Winged Lacewing from Portugal

Subject: Beetles in Portugal
Location: Serra da Mamede, Portugal
June 29, 2014 12:39 am
Dear Daniel,
Thank you very much for the identification. At the risk of being greedy, could I also ask you to identify this lovely two tailed fly. Found near a stream in the same area, its wingspan and tails are about two and a half inches long.  What does it use these amazing tails for?
Peter Burrows

Thread-Winged Lacewing
Thread-Winged Lacewing

Hi again Peter,
This is a Thread-winged Lacewing or Ribbon Winged Lacewing,
Nemoptera bipennis.  We are not certain why the wings have evolved to have such delicate tails.

Dear Daniel,
Many thanks for this. It is wonderful to have your expertise available on the internet.
With bets wishes, Peter

Letter 33 – Spoonwing Lacewing from Greece

Sciencebase Q&A (from David Bradley)
UPDATE: We think it is: Nemoptera bipennis
Hi Angela
A photographer friend snapped the attached insect. The presence of long
“halteres” suggests it is a member of the diptera family, possibly
related to lacewings…not sure. I am hoping that Daniel will be able to
ID it quickly and give us an excuse to mention his book again 😉
Please let me know as soon as possible
Thanks
db

Spoonwing

Hi David and Angela,
You are mostly correct.  This is a Spoonwing or Threadwing Lacewing, and it may be
Nemoptera bipennis, though there is no location provided for the photograph.  If the photograph was taken in Europe or Western Asia, the chances are very good it is Nemoptera bipennis.  The error is in the insect order.  Diptera is an order, not a family.  Diptera is the family of Flies, and halteres are the vestigial second pair of wings that are underdeveloped knob-like structures that are believed to serve to stabilize insects in flight.  Most true Flies have halteres, and the name Diptera refers to the fact that most Flies only have two pairs of functioning wings.  The thread or spoon wings on this Lacewing are tails on the hind wings, not halteres.  This Spoonwing belongs to the order Neuroptera, not Diptera.  Hope that helps.

We had a doubter.
Someone reckons N coa ranges across Greece (which is where the photo was taken) whereas N bipennis is Iberia/France…
They look almost identical to my eye…
Any further thoughts welcome, although please don’t be obliged to spend time on this.
Best wishes
db

Letter 34 – Debris Carrying Green Lacewing Larva

Moving Moss…Can you identify this Bug?
February 15, 2010
My son and I found two of these bugs in our back yard in Central Florida. At first they appeared to be small patches of moss, but then they started moving. When touched they would ball up. They have multiple legs with two pincher looking arms at the head. I do have some video of the two if you would like. They really are greyish looking with some brown spots that look like very much like sand or bark.
Todd Bost
Winter Park, FL

Debris Carrying Green Lacewing Larva

Hi Todd,
We received two letters today, both from Florida, requesting that we identify this Debris Carrying Green Lacewing Larva.  The larva carries debris as both camouflage and protection.  You can see a photo on BugGuide with the larva showing.

Letter 35 – Spoonwing

Weird bugs in Afghanistan
Location: Afghanistan
July 16, 2011 10:19 am
While in some of the greener parts of Afghanistan where the camel spiders, scorpions, and giant ants are present everywhere these almost out of place insects fly around with no since of direction. I am curious to know what it is and what it is closely related to. Thnx
Signature: Avery Williams

Spoonwing

Hi Avery,
Your insect is a Spoonwing in the family Nemopteridae, and another common name is Thread-Wing Antlion.  Spoonwings are classified in the insect order Neuroptera which also includes Lacewings, Antlions and Owlflies.

Mr.  Marlos,
I truly appreciate you replying to my inquiry I looked forwarded to information on the insect I seen.  You all do a wonderful job thank you.
Avery Williams

Letter 36 – Spoonwing from Turkey

Unknown yellow insect
June 20, 2009
Hi, I’ve been trying to figure out what the name of this insect is, but it hasn’t been easy. I saw it on a vacation to Turkey, Marmaris, and now it’s just bugging me that I don’t know it’s name. Can you help?
Christina
Turkey, Marmaris

Spoonwing
Spoonwing

Hi Christina,
This unusual insect is a Spoonwing or Threadwing Lacewing in the family Nemopteridae.  It looks rather like a specimen from Portugal on the Nemopteridae website that is identified as Nemoptera bipennis.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

26 thoughts on “Lacewing Chronicles: Exploring the Marvels of Nature’s Pest Control Experts”

  1. yes even though my name is lace these little guys are my nemesis. while much to my mom’s dismay i go out of my way to even relocate black widows out of my house, (hobo spiders are another story with my kidney disease), i have to say that i have been bitten by more “harmless” lacewings than anything else. while their bite doesn’t hurt very bad it does cause me nasty nasty hives and some shortness of breath if benedryl isn’t taken quickly. the little buggers have claimed my front porch, and while i won’t spray them i have been known to slap one for bitting, although mostly i try and flick them away when they land on me without causing them harm. they bite anyone who dares to come on my porch after dark. granted no one else gets hives, but the bites aren’t fun. (i refuse to sweep even empty spiderwebs away in hopes that more lacewings get trapped)

    i use this site all the time, it has been most helpful in satisfying my creepy crawly curiosity, including helping identify the first ever California harvester ant that i have ever seen in my thirty years living at this location. i just want to say that what may be harmless for you may not be harmless for everyone else. lacewings seem to bite with no provocation either. i’m sure my allergy is rare, but i know by my hives and the squeals of those bitten that they aren’t quite harmless.

    Reply
    • Thanks for providing your perspective on this. A member of our editorial staff was recently bitten, twice, by a Lacewing Larva, and a tiny welt did appear and it itched for approximately 24 hours. As more and more information gets disseminated at an ever quicker rate, we are learning that many things we once believed are being proven to have been misconceptions. More and more allergies are being revealed, and it is shocking the number of people who are allergic to the once innocuous peanut that formerly formed a staple for so many school lunches. Many years ago, we began to form a radical theory that Mother Nature is fighting back because of the way humans are destroying the planet. In the future, we will try to qualify our claims that things are relatively harmless, beginning with this posting.

      Reply
  2. thank you very much for acknowledging that the little buggers bite. i happen to be the. 001% for many allergies including about twenty rx meds to date. i am also allergic to aloe which is quickly becoming a problem because companies are putting it in everything, including the gloves my hospital uses, and many foods. they think it’s beneficial and can charge more for my hives. Aloe allergies are quite common but no one seems to notice it. In my family we even have metal allergies, while i only get a small rash from certain metals my aunt can actually stop a watch. granted my crazy allergies are probably connected to my auto immune disorder but everybody is allergic to something, they just haven’t been exposed to it yet.

    i was originally leaning towards entomology as a kid but the oil spills during my childhood made me want to focus on marine invertabrates. Alas my health has prevented both, but i can still explore the critters in my yard. My mom is deathly afraid of spiders and was determined not to pass on her fears to me she seems to have done too good of a job. Aside from recurring nightmares of Swarming wasps and bees i love all the little guys. ill have to add my story of being in the middle of two warring nests of European paper wasps another day.

    thank you so much for this site. it makes my days a science project.

    Reply
    • We just posted a nice photo of a European Paper Wasp. Should you decide to post your anecdote in the future, please comment on a Paper Wasp image.

      Reply
  3. Tallante, Murcia, Spain. Have seen many Nemoptera bipennis in recent weeks and have some good photos although in 14 years living here had not noticed them before. I have spent many hours trying to identify and thank goodness, eventually found your website. Thanks! Will study in more detail now I have a name. They are beautiful, delicate creatures.

    Reply
  4. I got bite twice on my toe by one of these things it feels like a fire ant bite, I have seen 2 so far here, my bite has a clear watery substance coming out of the bites are they poisonous to humans
    I just moved to Sulphur Louisiana

    Reply
    • Though there might be a reaction to the bites, to the best of our knowledge, the bite of a Lacewing Larva is not poisonous.

      Reply
  5. I got bite twice on my toe by one of these things it feels like a fire ant bite, I have seen 2 so far here, my bite has a clear watery substance coming out of the bites are they poisonous to humans
    I just moved to Sulphur Louisiana

    Reply
  6. My husband and I found a Lace Wing Larva in our house the other night. My husband found it. Thought at first he had found a lightning bug, because he was flashing. We scooped him up and examined him further. The flash was caused by a sequin he had attached to himself that flashed in the light as he walked along. He was mostly covered with ants. I put him in a container so I could show my kids and grandchildren the next day. My son-in-law looked at him through his cell phone. Apparently the little junk bug was conscious that we were doing something that he perceived as a threat. He took one of his ants off and shook it at us several times. Place it again on his back then get it again and shake it again, as if to say “Nah Nah Nay, Aren’t you scared of me… I have ants that should scare you.”
    That bit of spunk made me fall in love with him, if you can believe that…I made sure to quickly release him hoping no harm was done to him. He was both worried and scared but still stood up for himself as best he could.

    Reply
  7. My husband and I found a Lace Wing Larva in our house the other night. My husband found it. Thought at first he had found a lightning bug, because he was flashing. We scooped him up and examined him further. The flash was caused by a sequin he had attached to himself that flashed in the light as he walked along. He was mostly covered with ants. I put him in a container so I could show my kids and grandchildren the next day. My son-in-law looked at him through his cell phone. Apparently the little junk bug was conscious that we were doing something that he perceived as a threat. He took one of his ants off and shook it at us several times. Place it again on his back then get it again and shake it again, as if to say “Nah Nah Nay, Aren’t you scared of me… I have ants that should scare you.”
    That bit of spunk made me fall in love with him, if you can believe that…I made sure to quickly release him hoping no harm was done to him. He was both worried and scared but still stood up for himself as best he could.

    Reply
  8. Oh, I forgot, he had placed a sequin from one of my blouses on top of approximately where his head would be. That was what was flashing. It looked like a hat. It was just amazing to see this little fellow. I will never forget the little “Junk Bug”. (this is not a reply, but a continuation of the story I was telling above. Paula B

    Reply
  9. I have a pest that looks like a cigarette ash…it jumps and bites like a flea,it lays eggs and feces. It has literally plagued us. Please help!

    Reply
    • Chyma!!!!!!!! I know!!! I suspect the wisping cigarette ash to be of fungal or parasitic in its making. Mind over matter & treat the gut environment, the skin & your emvironment. I’m doing this daily, & it takes hours. Launder articles after each use!

      Reply
  10. Saw one of these shuffling along on a rustic table next to two moss covered trees that our deck is built around. This is in Wilmington NC, about 2 blocks from the Cape Fear river. We are in a area which is the border between tropical and artic (zone 8?) Lots of weird bugs and plants such as Venus Fly Traps. Love your site!

    Reply
  11. Thank you for this information! I too have been bitten and it felt like fire! I was bitten yesterday (June24) and this bite is itchy and I have a slight feverish lump under the bite mark. It acts like that of a wasp or bee sting. Ouch! I’ve been watching it closely and so far no change. Just itchy.

    Reply
  12. I just seen one this morning 6/6/20 in El Dorado, Ar. Thanks for the info! My girlfriend was about to pick it up. Lol

    Reply
  13. I see these in my backyard crawling on my patio table and around it and felt a bite on my ankle and looked down to swipe it off. Itchy and red mark the size of a large pea remains after two weeks

    Reply

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