One of the best additions to the pest management system, the Lacewings are natural enemies of many active plant pests. So what do lacewings eat, and how can they help gardeners? Let’s find out.
Not all predatory insects become alive after sucking the life of the prey; some die a heroic death.
The lacewing is a beautiful insect with golden eyes and one of the best yet underrated beneficial insects to have in your garden or farm.
Predominantly seen in North America and Europe, the Lacewings belong to the Chrysopidea family of the Neuroptera Order.
They are called lacewings because of the signature, almost colorless, netting pattern on their delicate wings.
Measuring between half to three-fourths of an inch, the lacewings are beneficial predators that gardeners often purchase or try to attract.
Among the 1,300 to 1,800 lacewing species found among their 85 genera, the two most common ones are Chrysoperla carnea and Chrysoperla rufilabris
Life Cycle of Green Lacewing
With their delicate appearance, green lacewings may seem like the most unassuming insects, but their early life is that of a voracious hunter.
Female Lacewings can lay up to 200 eggs in their lifetime. They strategically lay each egg cluster along slender stalks to protect them from other predators.
In 5 to 7 days, the eggs change their colors to darker shades of green and begin to hatch.
Lacewing larvae go through 3 instar stages of development before spinning the cocoon to metamorphose into adulthood.
Once they spin their cocoon, the new adult lacewings emerge in 2 to 3 weeks.
This stage takes between 2 to 3 weeks and is the one where lacewings are at their deadliest. As a larva, they can eat up to 1,000 aphids! Let’s see how they do this.
Larval Stage: The Aphid Lions Emerge
The larval stage is the most crucial stage of development when lacewing larvae begin to develop mandibles that strongly resemble elephant tusks.
The lacewing larvae use these strong bony structures to pierce through the bodies of their soft-shelled prey and inject venom into them.
They can only attack soft-bodied insects because their mouthparts need to penetrate the shell to inject venom. They cannot attack bugs with an exoskeleton.
This venom converts the insides of the prey into liquid, making it easy for the larvae to drain away the entire body content.
The nutrient-rich body liquid provides them with all the necessary benefits they need to metamorphose for the next stage rapidly.
What Do Aphid Lions Eat?
Did you know that green lacewing larvae are also called ‘Aphid Lions’? It is certainly not because of their size for sure.
The lacewing larvae have a voracious appetite for aphids of any kind, especially the ones with soft bodies.
In fact, during the larval stage, they are known to attack insects double their sizes, like caterpillars and mealy bugs.
The larvae prey on insects like leafhoppers, psyllids, whiteflies, mealybugs, mites, and caterpillars during this period.
Statistically, a single lacewing larva can feed on 100 to 600 aphids a week, thus clearing away an entire colony in 2 to 3 weeks. Hence the larvae of green lacewings are called ‘Aphid Lions’
The non-stop feeding frenzy continues until they are ready to pupate into a spherical silk cocoon.
How Do They Hunt?
The lacewing larvae are active throughout the day and night, thanks to their need to constantly feed themselves with body fluid from insect pests.
Adult green lacewings, on the other hand, are not usually visible during the daytime because they are nocturnal insects.
The yellow or green coloring of Lacewings gives them the benefit of camouflage among the dense green vegetation, making them almost invisible.
They spend a long time stalking their prey, and their bulbous copper eyes provide them with an excellent view.
Once they are ready to attack, they inject the venom into the soft bodies of the insects, and within 90-odd seconds, the entire internal content of the prey’s body is liquified and ready to be sucked out.
How To Use Them
Green lacewing larvae raised commercially under strict guidelines of insect control can be used in gardens, greenhouses, and farms.
The eggs come with moth eggs, bran, or rice hulls for nutrition. Try to provide them with a warm and humid environment, which is most optimal to accelerate the hatching process.
Be careful to store them in a cool and dry place. If the conditions are not right, they might hatch early and start cannibalizing each other.
Once they reach you, you need to release the eggs during the early morning hours. It is best never to release the eggs during the afternoon because the eggs are sensitive to direct sunlight.
Place ten lacewing eggs carefully in each plant so that for an area of 200 sq feet, there are 1000 lacewing eggs evenly distributed.
What Do Green Lacewings Eat?
Surprising as it may sound, adult green lacewings are herbivores. The adults feed on honeydew secretions from other aphids, flower nectar, and pollen of plants.
However, in their larval stage, they are purely carnivore predators with a penchant for insects like thrips, flies, mites, and eggs of other insects.
While the lacewing larvae are beneficial predators, the adult green lacewings play a crucial role in pollination as they help transfer the pollen while feeding.
Adult lacewings also prevent the formation of sooty molding on leaves caused due to honeydew.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are lacewings harmful?
Lacewing larvae are beneficial insects as they help eradicate pests like aphids, mites, mealy bugs, and caterpillars.
They are not pests, and they do not cause any damage to natural foliage. Their venom is only harmful to insects, and they don’t cause any harm to humans or pets.
How long do adult lacewings live?
Green lacewings go through 4 stages of the life cycle – egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. They start out as eggs, taking about 4-5 days to hatch.
Then, they spend the next 2-3 weeks as larvae before entering into a cocoon to pupate. After about five days, the adults emerge, and they can live for about 3 to 4 weeks feeding on pollen, honey, and nectar.
Will lacewings eat ants?
While adult lacewings do not attack other insects, the larvae of the lacewing are voracious predators that feed on many soft-shelled insects.
Ants, however, are not one of them since they have a hard exoskeleton. Ants interfere with their pest-eating process and, in fact, protect aphids as herders. They also eat the lacewing eggs, eliminating the larvae before they even emerge.
Do lacewings bite humans?
Lacewings are known for their venomous sting that liquefies the inner body content of their prey. They rarely attack humans.
On the rare occasion when they bite humans, it does not cause any significant damage except a slight burning sensation in the specific area.
A Holistic Approach to Banishing Pests and Unwanted Insects
If chemicals and DIY techniques are exhausting you and yet you haven’t been able to get rid of the pests successfully, it’s time you bring home a few thousand beautiful Green lacewings and let them do the job most effectively!
Lacewing larvae will eat those pests like there’s no tomorrow, and in a few short weeks, you will have your garden back!
Considering the massive number of common garden pests that lacewings can take care of, it is no surprise that many of our readers have wanted to know what all bugs they can eat.
While we tried to cover everything, please have a look at some of the reader emails below about specific pest problems and how lacewings have helped our readers in the past.
Letter 1 – Green Lacewing from Israel
Subject: Green bug in Israel Location: Israel July 25, 2012 5:19 pm Hey, I came across this thing in my bathroom in Israel and cannot identify it, I’m wondering what it is. It’s July now. Thanks! Signature: Jay Hi Jay, Green Lacewings like the individual in your photograph are found in many parts of the world and they look very similar. Both larvae and adults are important predators that consume vast quantities of Aphids and other small insects that are agricultural pests.
Letter 2 – Green Lacewing Hatches!!!!
Subject: Hatching Green Lacewing larva Location: Naperville, IL August 9, 2012 2:13 pm Dear Daniel~ I have been determined to get photos of a green lacewing larva hatching ever since you first helped me identify its eggs many moons ago. Finally, with a new macro lens, a makeshift studio, and a little patience, I was rewarded this morning. I had to leave before I witnessed it crawl down its filament, but I was able to watch it perform some pretty impressive gymnastics to wriggle free from its egg. When I returned from my errand, it was crawling around its dried-up leaf, desperately seeking an aphid, so I returned it to the plant upon which it had been originally laid, only to witness it immediately begin to chase an oleander aphid. It moved far too swiftly for me to capture the moment, but it was awfully fun to watch. All the best to you! Signature: -Dori Eldridge Hi Dori, Your submission just made our morning and we will be tagging it as one of our scrolling homepage featured postings. Your photos are wonderful and well worth the effort. We remember reading as a child that Lacewing Eggs are stalked because the hatchlings are so ravenous that they would cannibalize their siblings if they were not distracted by needing to climb down the stalk after emerging. The stalks also make nearby eggs something of an obstacle course to reach. By evolving in this manner these hungry Aphid Wolves, as they are commonly called, would have a greater survival rate and would subsequently help control Aphids that can reproduce in prodigious numbers. This is also a fine place to take a break and have a morning cup of coffee as the sky is just beginning to lighten here in Los Angeles. Thank you, Daniel! It is your web site and your book – that I actually carry around with me – that have made me so interested in capturing snapshots of this absolutely fascinating world. I am always astounded and humbled by the intricacies of critters so tiny that I can barely see them with my own eyes. Thank you for this wonderful web site. Enjoy your coffee! -Dori Eldridge That is so nice to hear Dori. The coffee was wonderful, but it is time to perk a new pot. That first morning cup was left from the day before, but percolated coffee keeps quite well at room temperature and it ensures a quick first cup that just needs to be reheated. Daniel, have you seen this recent story about a new lacewing species and its unique discovery process: http://www.petapixel.com/2012/08/11/scientists-discovers-new-insect-species-while-browsing-flickr-photos/ I thought it rather timely! I hope you have a lovely weekend. -Dori Eldridge Thanks Dori, There are so many unidentified species on FlickR. We often find matches to insects we are trying to identify and many times there is no identification. Thanks for sharing this wonderful news story.
Letter 3 – Green Lacewing from Australia
Subject: Bug Location: Melbourne Australia December 6, 2016 5:53 am Hi have never seen anything like this before can you identify it for me Thanks Kelly Signature: Bug person Dear Kelly, Because both adult Green Lacewings, and their larvae which are known as Aphid Wolves, consume large quantities of insects, including Aphids, they are considered beneficial insects in the garden.
Letter 4 – Green Lacewing
Subject: Hi Geographic location of the bug: Huntington Beach, California Date: 11/20/2017 Time: 02:23 PM EDT What is this bug!!! How you want your letter signed: I love bugs this is a cool website!!! Green Lacewings like the one in your image are sometimes called Goldeneyes.
Letter 5 – Green Lacewing
Subject: Little Ferry of a bug super long Wings super long antennas awesome giant eyeballs Geographic location of the bug: Ohio on my window curtain Date: 06/16/2018 Time: 08:41 AM EDT Your letter to the bugman: me and my ex-boyfriend are autistic we wanted to be entomologist as children this insect gets all of my honor what is he or she please I love this little baby look at how cute his eyeball is I got a super big close up picture coming for you How you want your letter signed : Mister cute big bug man eyeball This is a predatory Green Lacewing in the family Chrysopidae and they are sometimes called Golden-Eyes.