Lacewings are found throughout the United States. They are predators of many garden pests including aphids, thrips, mites, whiteflies, and other small, soft-bodied pests and their eggs.
The larvae are yellowish-gray, mottled with brown, and have large mouthparts. They reach 3/8 inch long before pupation. These are commonly called aphid lions, and they are voracious feeders, eating 200 or more pests or their eggs per week between hatching and pupation.
Most adult lacewings get their sustenance from pollen, nectar, and the honeydew produced by aphids and scales. Some species also feed upon pests.
Adults of the most common species are slender and bright green, with delicate veined wings and long antennae. Eggs of lacewings are easy to identify, as they are laid in groups with each egg held aloft on a threadlike stalk. Eggs hatch in 3 to 5 days; the larval stage lasts 2 or three weeks. Pupation lasts about 5 days, and adults live for 4 to 6 weeks. Females lay about 200 eggs in that time. There are 3 to 4 generations per year.
Attract lacewings to your garden with food and moisture: Small and shallow-faced flowers provide adult lacewings easy access to pollen and nectar. Plant alyssum, herbs from the dill family, and flowers from the daisy family. If you have a bird bath or pool in your garden, place stones in the water so lacewings have a place to land and drink safely.
Photography by David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org
Article published on June 23, 2008.