Lacewing Life Cycle: How Long Do Lacewings Live?

Lacewings are beautiful insects, but do you know how they grow up to this stage? Learn all about their lives from the egg to the adult stage in the article below.

Lacewings are a member of the Neuroptera family of insects. They are known for their beautiful netted wings and golden eyes.

They are classified into two families: green and brown. Both follow a similar life cycle and can complete several generations in one year.

Their eggs hatch into soft-bodied larvae. The larvae then develop through 3 instar stages and then pupate.

Finally, adult winged lacewings emerge out of pupae to continue the process of reproduction. Let’s learn more about the life cycle of these unique and beneficial insects.

Lacewing Life Cycle

Green Lacewing Life Cycle

Green lacewings complete their entire life cycle in just four to six weeks. These lacewings are mostly found near trees, crops, and forest covers.

They remain active throughout the year except for the cold season and can form several generations in one year.

Egg

The female green lacewings lay 100 to 300 eggs in one season. They prefer to lay their eggs on flat surfaces such as walls.

Lacewing eggs can grow in almost any place except those that see extremely harsh winters. In such places, lacewing larvae or pupae overwinter to survive the cold.

A unique thing about lacewings is that they don’t simply lay eggs on the ground. They attach them to a small stalk which supports them slightly away from the surface.

This is a kind of defense mechanism that protects them from predators such as ants. It also stops them from cannibalizing each other.

In about four to five days, the eggs hatch, and the larvae slowly move their soft body out of the eggshell.

Larva

The larvae have a soft exoskeleton immediately after being hatched. They remain near the eggshells and show little activity for almost an hour.

Lacewing larvae look like tiny alligators. They are brown or creamy white and have sickle-shaped mandibles in the front.

Once their exoskeleton hardens, they start moving and spread out in search of food.

Lacewing larvae are voracious eaters. They feed on insects like aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, moth eggs, leafhopper nymphs, whiteflies, and thrips.

The larva can eat as many as 1,000 aphids during their short 2-3 week lifespan. Their penchant for eating aphids has earned them the name “aphid lions.”

The larvae feed like crazy and keep growing through three instar stages, finally becoming ready to pupate. They can grow up to about ½ an inch.

Lacewing Life Cycle

Pupa

Green lacewings mainly survive through winter as pupae (known as overwintering). They form silken cocoons around their bodies and become inactive.

Typically, lacewings pupate on host plants or places that have lots of food for them when they emerge. Lacewings undergo three stages of metamorphosis.

At the end of each step, the instar becomes bigger and develops sturdier wings.

Adult

The lacewing larvae remain in their cocoon for 5 to 7 days, during which they develop wings and reproductive organs.

They emerge out of the cocoon fully formed and again enter the cycle of mating and reproduction.

Adult green lacewings measure up to 1/2 inch and usually feed on pollen and nectar from flowers.

Lacewing Life Cycle

Brown Lacewing Life Cycle

Brown lacewings undergo several stages of development to form adult lacewings. Their life cycle moves from egg to larvae to pupae, and finally, adult forms.

Egg

Female Brown lacewings lay around 600 eggs in their lifetime.

These insects lay eggs near colonies of their prey, which mostly includes pests like aphids, mealworms, and mites. This way, the young larvae would not have to go far in search of food.

Sometimes, they also lay eggs on plants, bugs, leaves, and fleshy stems. Unlike green lacewings, their eggs are placed directly on the surface without a stalk.

The eggs are oval-shaped and about 1/25th of an inch in size. In most cases, the eggs would be white, pink, or gray. They hatch within three to five days.

Larva

The brown lacewing larvae come out from the soft-shelled eggs within a few days of laying. They have a soft endoskeleton which eventually hardens with time.

These larvae are 1/3rd of an inch long, and it is hard to differentiate between green and brown lacewings at the larval stage.

The larva passes through three instars or development stages before starting to form pupae.

Pupa

Brown lacewings form silken pupae under loose bark or into crevices of trees. The insect is partially visible inside the cocoon. Their shape is either spherical or oblong.

During pupation, these insects develop sturdy and intricate wings and organs of reproduction. Being in the pupa form helps the lacewing to overwinter through the cold days of the year.

Adult

Adult brown lacewings measure up to half an inch and have beautiful wings. You can easily find them in areas rich in shrubs, such as gardens, fields, crop fields, etc.

They have a delicate body with soft antennae, golden eyes, and wings that have yellow to brownish coloration.

Lacewing Life Cycle

Differences Between Green and Brown Lacewings

Both the lacewings belong to the same order. Still, they are two separate families with few similar features. Still, they vary widely in appearance, egg-laying, and typical characteristics.

Appearance

Green and Brown Lacewings cannot always be easily differentiated from one another purely based on the primary colors.

Green lacewings possess two pairs of wings, narrow bodies, and big rounded eyes. On the other hand, brown lacewing looks grey to brown in color and has a hairy body. You might mistake brown lacewings for moths as they appear similar from a distance.

Their larvae also resemble each other. However, there are two differences: the brown lacewing larva has a longer prothorax (neck).

Under a microscope, you can check that brown lacewings have short and stock empodia attached to their legs, whereas green lacewings have long and cylindrical ones.

Food source

Green lacewings mainly depend on pollen and nectar from plants and honeydew from insects such as aphids. However, they don’t eat pests directly.

On the other hand, brown lacewings mainly feed on insects such as aphids and other potential pests and are used as biological control. Hence, brown lacewings are considered beneficial insects.

Eggs

Green lacewings lay eggs attached to a surface through a slender stalk, while brown lacewings lay hundreds of eggs directly on the surface.

Brown lacewings can lay as many as three times the number of eggs as green ones.

The green lacewings larvae voraciously eat aphids. Once they become adults, they prefer honeydew, nectar, and pollen.

But brown lacewings are predator insects in both larvae form and adult form.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do green lacewings live?

Green lacewings complete their life cycle within 4 to 6 weeks. They can grow from an egg into adult form bearing wings and reproductive organs within just four weeks.
Their life span is around 20 to 40 days in warmer areas.

Where do lacewings lay their eggs?

Green lacewings lay eggs in plants or on surfaces such as high up on the walls.
Brown lacewings mainly lay eggs on plant bodies near their leaves, bug, loose bark, field crops, and succulent parts of plants.
Green lacewings lay eggs on a stalk, while brown ones directly lay on the plant’s surface.

Do lacewings bite humans?

Yes, both the brown lacewing larva and green lacewing larva can bite humans. The bite does not result in any major problems and might cause mild skin irritation.
So, you might want to bear with the itch if you want to bring these insects home as beneficial insects for pest control.

Do lacewings eat ladybugs?

No, lacewings are not predators of ladybugs, and ladybugs, too, do not feed on lacewings. Both can easily coexist.
Additionally, both serve as beneficial insects in controlling nuisance pests such as aphids. However, not all beneficial insects are like this.
For example, assassin bugs will eat both ladybugs and lacewings while also feeding on aphids and mites.

Wrap Up

Lacewing larvae are voracious eaters and feed on small insects such as aphids which are known to be difficult pests on plants and indoor gardens.

You can use insect eggs or larvae to control pests in your garden. Knowing about their lifecycle helps you understand how long these insects will stay in your garden and when they will emerge again after the winter.

Thank you for reading!

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.

18 thoughts on “Lacewing Life Cycle: How Long Do Lacewings Live?”

  1. Well this little critter was quite clearly alive and kicking, so I think I can say without a doubt that it very recently dropped onto the slice of cake from a tree or plant, and was not baked into it!

    It also seems extremely unlikely that this Lacewing larva got into the package at the store, since this is very much an outdoor bug not an indoor bug.

    I wonder if there was a bunch of cut flowers (lilacs for instance) in this person’s house that it could have been on, such that maybe it dropped off and fell onto the cake as the person was getting ready to eat the cake?

    Just an idea…

    Susan J. Hewitt

    Reply
    • Thanks for your perspective Susan. We never meant to imply that the Lacewing Larva was baked into the cake. We wanted to make the point that insects in food is not an unusual occurrence. Your theory about a bouquet of flowers is a good possibility.

      Reply
  2. Did the bug bite or sting? I’ve been stung three times usually in the spring or fall. I have an allergic reaction to the sting.

    Reply
  3. I live in Dallas Texas. In June I was bitten on three different occasions by Aphid Lions. I was trimming my crepe myrtle trees and I guess they fell and landed on me. Harmless enough but really itches after a couple of days.

    Reply
  4. I found a tiny guy like this, sort of, in our garden this morning, but my tiny guy looked more like walking white fuzz, white moss/cotton. I was completely surprised I was able to see him/her moving across the dark soil.
    We live in Northern California, and previously to this little guy we found a normal one in one of our fruitless mulberry trees.
    Is the camo. lacewing larvae normally found here? Curious as only having once in my life seen the normal one. I suppose because they are so small.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  5. I found a tiny guy like this, sort of, in our garden this morning, but my tiny guy looked more like walking white fuzz, white moss/cotton. I was completely surprised I was able to see him/her moving across the dark soil.
    We live in Northern California, and previously to this little guy we found a normal one in one of our fruitless mulberry trees.
    Is the camo. lacewing larvae normally found here? Curious as only having once in my life seen the normal one. I suppose because they are so small.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  6. I believe that they do “sting,” to some degree. I have video of one with its tail stuck into me and the pain just like a bee sting. I’m allergic to them.as I become so swollen at the bite site that after a day, little tears develop & an amber fluid slowly leaks out for days. It’s been confirmed by an entomologist that it is green lacewing larvae. Nasty. They’re all over my yard a certain time of year. I’m in the east San Francisco Bay Area, CA.

    Reply
  7. Missy, that is exactly what happens to me. The larva sticks it’s tail in my skin. I get a large red swollen area and have to get medical treatment to make the reaction stop. The spot oozes yellow liquid and usually a small white object comes out with the liquid. When the white object comes out, the place begins to heal. It will not heal until the white object comes out, though.

    Reply
  8. Erhoades50 – NOT that I’d wish this pain on anyone but you just completely validated me!! My friends get bitten (is it REALLY a “bite” when it comes from the TAIL??) and they just get a itchy little red bump like a mosquito bite. The first 2 entomologists I spoke with insisted it couldn’t be this particular insect because “they don’t sting” and there are “no documented” reactions like mine. So I took a bullet to prove my case – the next time I was stung, I filmed with my iPhone – it was very clear video – and because that’s the longest I’d been stung – the reaction was well underway before video ended. My ankle looked like it swallowed a baseball. I also sent a video of the after affect – the tiny tears throughout the wound, the mysterious amber fluid leaking from them – skin so red it looks like a burn.. Finally a scientist said I was the first one he knew of to react this way and it simply meant that I’m severelyallergic even though they’re tiny. He also thought the stinging from the tail was extremely unusual behavior as it’s not documented either but I assured him that every time it’s ever happened, its come from the tail.. So – I carry Benadryl cream with me now and also crushing an aspirin and sticking it to the wound with the cream really helps the pain/throbbing so I suggest you try that.

    Reply
  9. Missy, several have told me that the bug does not sting. I looked it up on the internet and it said they do not sting. Yet, the little bugs search me out. I walk outside and they migrate to me. Internet says they eat aphids. I guess you and I smell like aphids. You can tell the scientist you have met another person who has allergic reactions. Maybe they should test us to see why the bugs go after us and sting us. I wonder how many more people out there are like us.

    Reply
  10. I get these bugs every year in the back yard tree, and they bite me and my son. The bite will burn and itch for weeks after !! I am guessing its the lace bug larvae!

    Reply
  11. We just found the lacewing larvae that bit my wife. Reading threw many articles that claim they are a nuisance, yet my wife and I have been bitten many times. My wife’s first bite on her ankle, 2, bites. Blistered and swollen. Had to see the doctor. Second time, 2 small blisters immediately on her wrist, swollen up to her elbow in 12 hours. . No big blisters that time.
    To me they feel like a small sting but no reaction like my wife.
    I’ve read many articles that claim they are just a nuisance yet many have had severe reactions.
    Thanks for the reading.
    Best, Robert

    Reply
  12. We just found the lacewing larvae that bit my wife. Reading threw many articles that claim they are a nuisance, yet my wife and I have been bitten many times. My wife’s first bite on her ankle, 2, bites. Blistered and swollen. Had to see the doctor. Second time, 2 small blisters immediately on her wrist, swollen up to her elbow in 12 hours. . No big blisters that time.
    To me they feel like a small sting but no reaction like my wife.
    I’ve read many articles that claim they are just a nuisance yet many have had severe reactions.
    Thanks for the reading.
    Best, Robert

    Reply
  13. Thank you for your speedy reply! This is very helpful. There are certainly plenty of aphids in my garden for this little one to snack on. I even have some aphids on my indoor plants, which may explain why I found an aphid wolf inside.

    Reply

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