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Award of Merit Article


by Nanette Londeree, Consulting Rosarian

One of the more common garden "good guys" is the green lacewing. While the adult is fairly recognizable, it is the larvae that are the real predators. Lacewings in the genera Chrysopa and Chrysoperla are common natural enemies of aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Lacewing larvae are voracious, reportedly consuming up to 600 aphids each and are sometimes called aphid lions, though they will eat just about anything they can subdue, including thrips and small caterpillars.

Adults are a pale green or brown, 1/2 to 1/4 inch long insect with large, transparent, highly veined wings that are held over their delicate body when at rest. They have long antennae and bright golden eyes. Oval shaped eggs are laid singly and are pale green, turning gray in several days. T'he larvae emerge in four to 10 days and are yellowish-gray or brown, mottled, spiny and alligator like with well-developed legs and large pinchers with which they suck the body fluids from the prey. In general shape and size, the larvae are superficially similar to lady beetle larvae, however, irmnature lacewings can be distinguished by their pinchers.

Lacewing Larvae

The adults of most species fed on nectar and honeydew produced by aphids and other sucking insects like leafhoppers, whiteflies and mealybugs. You can build up the population of wild lacewings by applying a sugar and protein mixture that simulates this honeydew. Dribble it onto the foliage near your garden, and especially near a pest outbreak. Commercial preparations of these insect foods have names like Pred-Feed and Bug-Chow.

If you want to purchase these beneficial insects, they are most commonly sold as eggs, mixed with a carrier like bran or rice hulls. Success with lacewing eggs may require practice. Hold the eggs at room temperature until the larvae begin hatching, then sprinkle them on plants (about one to five per square foot of garden space may be the most effective). You can also buy the larvae, though they cost about 10 times as much as the eggs. This may be a good value, given that ants and other predators often eat a great portion of lacewing eggs.

Photos by: R. Bessin
Photos courtesy of: University of Kentucky Entomology

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