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The Common Green Lacewing, Our Ally Against Aphids and Other Pests

Updated on May 16, 2016
A common green lacewing - own photo
A common green lacewing - own photo

Welcome the common green lacewing into your garden

The larvae of the lacewing eats large amounts of aphids, but also various other small insects, such as spider mites, thrips, whitefly, mealybugs, small caterpillars and insect eggs, and should therefore be welcomed in every garden.

The common green lacewing occurs in many parts of America, Europe and Asia and feeds on nectar, pollen and honeydew. Adult lacewings are about 2 cm long,very slim and have a light green colour. The large eyes have a golden colour, which is why in some languages this insect is also called goldeneye. Its two pairs of large, membranous wings are delicately veined and are folded like a roof over the body when in rest. Both pairs of wings can be moved independently, which makes their flight look somewhat clumsy. The thread-like antennae are nearly as long as the body.

Green lacewing larva eating an aphid.
Green lacewing larva eating an aphid. | Source

Biology

Lacewings are active from April/May until September/October. In early spring the green eggs are laid single or in small groups on the underside of leaves or on branches in the neighbourhood of aphis colonies. Each egg stands on top of a thin, flexible thread that can be up to 10 mm long. These threads serve to keep the eggs away from voracious larvae of their own kind, or other predators. The females lay about twenty eggs per day and are able to produce up to 1000 eggs in total.

The larvae hatch after some 1 or 2 weeks and crawl along the thread to the surface of the leaf, where they start immediately with hunting for aphids or other prey. They have a brown colour and in form they look a bit like the larvae of ladybugs. They differ from these by their long, inwardly curved, hollow, pincer shaped jaws. With these jaws, the larva drills into its prey, injects it with a paralysing, enzymes, causing the content of the prey to liquidize, after which it is able to suck the content up as through a lemonade straw. Because of their appearance and their voracity, they are also called aphid lions.

The larvae moult twice and at the end of the third larval stage, when they are about 1cm long, they have eaten some 500 aphids. The larva pupates in a round, silk cocoon, attached to the underside of a leaf or to a twig.

There are two generation per year. In September or October, the adult lacewings turn brown under the influence of the short days of autumn. They then search for places to overwinter, often inside houses.

First instar larvae hatching

Source

The entire lifecycle of the lacewing

Natural enemies

Spider web
Spider web | Source

Both adult lacewings and their larvae are mainly eaten by birds and spiders.

Tip

If you find brown coloured lacewings indoors during the winter, leave them be. They don't do anything and don't feed themselves. In spring, when they have turned green again, open a window or door to let them go out. They will search for aphid infested plants to lay their eggs.

More beneficial insects

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Centipedes are highly valued as natural pest control, as they are predators of insects, spiders, small slugs and earthworms which they hunt by chasing them a...

What do you think about lacewings?

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    • kislanyk profile image

      Marika 5 years ago from Cyprus

      Useful tips against aphids (which I hate with a vengeance!)