Sunday, May 15, 2011

Beneficial Insects: Lacewings

Lacewing Larva Eating a Caterpillar

Lacewings

Latin Name: Family Chrysopidae.  (Over 85 genera and 2,000 species in the world.)

Lacewing Larva Eating an Aphid


Why are they beneficial?
Larvae feed on soft-bodied pests, mealy bugs, scale, spider mites, thrips, caterpillars, whitefly, leafhoppers, and pest eggs.
They LOVE aphids!
A larva can eat 100-200 aphids per week.
Many adults do not feed on other insects but on nectar and pollen; however, some adults (like the common Chrysopa genus - the "common green lacewing") are voracious eaters of pests in the garden as well.

What is their life cycle?
The female will lay her eggs (200-300 in her life) in a small cluster on a plant leaf or stem.
The eggs are suspended on a hair-like stalk.
In a few days, the eggs hatch into larvae.
The larvae mature and grow for 1-3 weeks depending on environmental conditions.
When mature, the larvae pupate (go into a cocoon-like stage).
In about 5 days, the adults emerge.

What do they look like?
This is important.  Most people only know what the adult looks like.  Here is what to look for in all stages of the life cycle.
Single Lacewing Eggs

Lacewing Egg Cluster

Lacewing Eggs and Thumb (for size)

Newly Hatched Lacewing Larvae

Green Lacewing Larvae Feeding on Whiteflies
Note that Lacewing Larvae are about 1/2 inch in length.

Green Lacewing Larva Feeding on Aphids.
Note that different species have different color patterns, but are basically the same shape.

 
Lacewing Pupa

 
Adult Lacewing

 
Adult Lacewing (for size)

 
Adult Lacewing.
Note that colors and spots may be different with different species, but size and shape are about the same.


What do they need?
Prey: Lacewing Larvae feed on soft-bodied pests, mealy bugs, scale, spider mites, thrips, caterpillars, whitefly, leafhoppers, and pest eggs.
Food: While some adult Lacewings are carnivoers and will eat the prey items above, all adult Lacewings should have nectar and pollen from flowers that have shallow clusters or are umbrella shaped to ensure reproduction... and more larvae!
Examples of plants that provide nectar and pollen to Lacewings:  basket of gold, buckwheat, butterfly weed, carpet bugleweed, chamomile, chervil, chives, clover, cornflower, cosmos, coreopsis, cinquefoil, coriander, dandelion, dill, fennel, four-wing saltbush, golden marguerite, marigold, mustard, parsley, queen anne's lace, scented geraniums, spike speedwell, sunflowers, tansy, vetch, wild carrot, yarrow).
Lacewings also need places to overwinter - loose mulch, leaf litter, under rocks, etc. 
Some Lacewings will overwinter in the pupal (cocoon) stage.

Check out these other pages on beneficial insects in your garden!
Bees
Lacewings
Ladybugs
Praying Mantis
Trichogramma Wasps

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