Garden Good Guys – Green Lacewings

The ethereal green lacewing is one of the more recognizable garden “good guys.”  With its slender pale green body, delicate gossamer wings, and immense golden eyes, it gives the appearance of a fairy prancing on garden leaves rather than the aggressive predator that it is.

Lacewings, also called aphid lions, are natural enemies of several species of aphids, spider mites (especially red mites), leafhoppers, mealybugs, leafminers, psyllids, thrips, whiteflies, small caterpillars, beetle larvae and insect eggs.  The easily identifiable adults, commonly found in landscape and garden habitats, are not the main predators – it’s the alligator-shaped larvae that are the voracious hunters.  The adults feed on nectar, pollen and honeydew produced by sucking insects.  

This garden good guy goes through a complete metamorphosis, and in mild winter areas, can be found throughout the year.  Their rather unique eggs are laid singly or in clusters at the ends of long silken stalks. They hatch in about four days, followed by a larval stage that takes about ten days when temperatures are mildly warm. Mature instars spin spherical, parchment-like, silken cocoons and attach to plants or under loose bark to pupate, with adults emerging ten – fourteen days later. 

The fierce, grayish to brown, mottled and spiny larvae have a flattened body tapered at the tail, with distinct legs, resembling little alligators with large pinchers. These pinchers help distinguish them from lady beetle larvae which are superficially similar in appearance. 

A number of species are commercially available for release as eggs, adults, or larvae, with eggs being the most common and least expensive.  They are mixed with a carrier like bran or rice hulls and applied by shaking from the shipping containers onto the infested plants. 

To encourage these helpers to stay in your garden, provide nectar-producing plants along with some flowering weeds, a source of water and a low level of aphids.  Here are some of the plants that can support these beneficial insects:

  • Achillea filipendulina – Fern-leaf yarrow
  • Anethum graveolens – Dill
  • Angelica gigas – Angelica
  • Anthemis tinctoria – Golden marguerite
  • Callirhoe involucrata – Purple poppy mallow
  • Coriandrum sativum – Coriander
  • Cosmos bipinnatus – Cosmos white sensation
  • Daucus carota – Queen Anne’s lace
  • Foeniculum vulgare – Fennel
  • Helianthus maximilianii – Prairie sunflower
  • Tanacetum vulgare – Tansy
  • Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion

By Nanette Londeree, Master Rosarian

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top