by Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
Green lacewings are an often under-appreciated group of beneficial insects. As with lady beetles, these natural enemies are important predators of many types of soft bodied insects and insect eggs. These insects are common in the spring summer and fall and their contribution to insect control is immense.
The adult green lacewing (left) is about 3/4 inch long, light green and has a delicate appearance with lacy wings. One unusual characteristic are its eyes, they look like two golden hemispheres. They are weak fliers and are commonly found near aphid colonies. The adults feed mostly on nectar, pollen, and honeydew but with some species the adults will feed on insects.
The eggs (left) are either laid singly or in small groups. Each is always found perched on the tip of a hairlike stalk that is about 1/2 inch long. This helps to reduce cannibalism of the eggs by sibling larvae. Females will usually deposit the egg close a food source for the larvae.
The larvae (left) are brown and white and may grow up to about l/2 inch in length. The larvae are called aphid lions, but they feed on other soft-bodied insects as well as aphids. They are voracious feeders, attacking with large, curved, hollow mandibles. This is the most beneficial stage with the lacewings. They feed on soft bodied insects like aphids, but will also feed on caterpillars and some beetles.
The larvae will pupate on the plants which they were searching for insect prey. The pupa is light in color and egg shaped.
Rarely, lacewing larvae have been know to bite humans. But this is usually nothing more than a small skin irritation. Despite these rare encounters, they remain important natural enemies of many insect pests.
Green lacewing eggs have been available from a few biological control supply houses in North America. These have been used with some success in Kentucky at controlling aphids in greenhouses and in plant beds. One advantage when using lacewing eggs over lady beetles is that the beetles are winged and will disperse from the release area. When the lacewing larvae hatch, they are wingless and remain in the general area to search for insect prey.
CAUTION! Pesticide recommendations in this publication are registered for use in Kentucky, USA ONLY! The use of some products may not be legal in your state or country. Please check with your local county agent or regulatory official before using any pesticide mentioned in this publication.
Of course, ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS FOR SAFE USE OF ANY PESTICIDE!