Lacewings

Lacewings are small green or brown insects with tiny wings that are held upright over the body. The insects get the name lacewing because the wings are thin, lacy, and transparent. Brown and green lacewings are actually from different families of insects, but both are predatory beneficial insects that consume aphids, mites, mealybugs, thrips and the eggs of other insects.

Lacewing

Green lacewings (family Chrysopidae), are only predatory during the larval stage. During the adult stage they feed on nectar and pollen. Depending upon the species, the female lays just a single egg or a cluster of several eggs on the underside of a plant. The eggs are distinctive because each is held at the end of a fine silk stalk. The eggs begin as a bright green and darken over a period of four days before hatching. Though laid in small clusters, each female lacewing can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime and lacewings can produce between 2 to 4 generations per year.

Lacewing Larva

The larva of green lacewings resemble a tiny buff colored alligator with brown blotches. They range in size from just 1/8 of an inch to over of an inch. The larval stage can last up to 3 weeks and during that time the larva will consume about 600 aphids or other prey. At the end of the larval stage, the lacewing pupates in a round, silken cocoon for 1 week, at which time the adult lacewing emerges and the life-cycle begins again.

Brown lacewings (family Hemerobiidae) are less common than green lacewings, and both the larval and adult stages of this insect are predatory towards aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies. Brown lacewings are often found in apple and pear orchards. The eggs of the brown lacewing are laid on the underside of plants but lack the silken stalk and color of the green lacewing eggs. Instead, the eggs are oblong and white, found either singly or in a small cluster. Female brown lacewings lay between 100 and 500 eggs in a lifetime and there can be just a single generation in cooler climates, or up to five generations per season in warmer climates. The larval stage of the brown lacewing can eat 20 aphids or 40 mites per day.

The green lacewings are available for purchase to the home gardener. The lacewing eggs are shipped in dry rice hulls and should be released as closely as possible to large infestations of aphids. Lacewings can also be attracted to the garden by planting members of the Umbelliferae family including dill, caraway, Queen Anne's Lace, parsley, or carrots. Adult lacewings are also attracted to field crops such as alfalfa and borage, and may be attracted to the garden using a lure called wheast. Wheast is available for purchase or can be made with 1 part yeast to one part sugar and just enough water to mix into a thin paste. This mixture can then be applied to plants and will attract both ladybugs and lacewings.

Lacewings can easily over-winter in milder areas, but in areas that receive a hard frost they only survive in small numbers. To help encourage over-wintering, low growing cover crops and ground covers should be planted in or near the garden to protect them.

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Resources:

University of Kentucky Entomology: Lacewings
University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: Brown Lacewings
University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: Green Lacewings
Virginia Tech: Virginia Fruit Page: Lacewings

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