Eliminating harmful insects and crop-destroyers without adversely affecting beneficial predators, pollinators, and wildlife have been important considerations in organic horticulture. Green lacewings are a very effective natural help in dealing with many garden pests.
Below are some tips for understanding their role, garden benefits, and how to attract them.
Belonging to the order Neuroptera, green lacewings are attractive insects of the family Chrysopidae . They are a valuable part of any integrated pest management (IPM) system, being some of the most effective natural predators of garden pests.
These delicate-looking creatures have four, almost transparent, wings, veined in bright green or sometimes brown. Also, they possess long antennae and copper-golden eyes.
These insects that eat other insects have an unusual and very recognizable way of depositing their eggs. The eggs appear as light-colored elongated shapes attached to a fine thread hanging underneath plant leaves.
These hatch in a few days as small flattish ‘alligator-shaped’ larvae that feed continuously for 2-3 weeks, shedding skins several times.
After this time, the larvae begin spinning a fine cocoon for the pupal phase, before finally emerging as adults. The larvae require a lot of energy during this process, so they need to devour large quantities of food.
They are ready with sharp pincers to capture and pierce their prey, notably their favorite meal of aphids. For this reason, they are often referred to as ‘aphid lions’ .
Green Lacewing Garden Benefits
Lacewing flies are a great boon to organic gardening. In their larval phase, they are prolific eliminators of destructive pests.
The ravenously hungry larvae will attack any soft-bodied insect using their hooked pincers for the whole process. First, they pierce the pest and skewer it before injecting digestive enzymes to paralyze the prey.
Finally, the larvae will suck out the juices and, using the pincers like straws, draw out the fluid and finish off the pest. This unpleasant process takes only a minute or so to complete, allowing the larvae to progress to around 200 aphids a week.
Insects on their diet sheet include:
- Leafhopper nymphs
- Scale insects
- Moth eggs
- Cabbage worms
The adults are also beneficial as pollinators, feeding on plant pollen, nectar, and honeydew. By feeding on the honeydew and pollen of plants, they help to pollinate other plants.
How to Attract Green Lacewings to Your Garden
Certain organic practices can invite and maintain a healthy population in your vegetable garden.
1. Keep Some Bad Insects
It seems hard to encourage a gardener to resist eliminating all pests, but allowing some to survive will attract beneficial insects to the garden.
The residual sticky and sugary honeydew of harmful insects like aphids is food for pollinators like ladybugs, butterflies, bees, and lace wing moths.
A ready supply of pests like aphids is a bit like a fast-food store for beneficial insects. Female lacewings will be happy to deposit hundreds of eggs in this helpful environment.
2. Sugary Spray
To attract helpful insects like this small green flying bug, you can apply a spray of sugar and water to plants where aphids and other pests are colonizing.
This sweet solution will increase the amount of honeydew on the plants from the pests and bring squadrons of lace wigs bugs over to feed and mate.
An army of larvae will follow, destroying most of the pests.
3. Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects
Many flowering plants and herbs will attract these useful insects and encourage the pollination of fruit and crops in the garden.
These green winged insects are particularly attracted to angelica, caraway, tansy, fern-leaf yarrow, cosmos, and poppy mallow. They also favor herbs such as dill, fennel, and coriander.
4. Limit the Use of Pesticides
There are several natural organic insecticides like Neem oil and Diatomaceous Earth that you can use to control garden pests.
If used correctly, these will not harm or deter beneficial insects; however, chemical pesticides can destroy all insect life, including pollinators and predators.
As a result, it’s best to avoid the use of insecticides as they can negatively affect good insects.
Buy Them Commercially
Many beneficial insects are reared today for organic gardening and farming and are up for sale online, in garden centers, or from specialty suppliers.
There are lacewings for sale in the three main stages of the life cycle.
- Green lacewing eggs can be distributed throughout the garden and in the greenhouse in batches over a season in mild warm conditions.
- The larvae are effective for quickly dealing with an infestation of pests. These are available for fast applications in gardens or greenhouse.
- Adults (Chrysoperla rufilabris) can also be ordered, usually ready to produce eggs, but may have limited use as pollinators.
Once established, these additions can be encouraged and sustained to control pest infestations over a long period.
This little green bug with wings is a deceptive insect. They appear to be fragile moth-like creatures, attracted to porch lights on warm evenings where their lucent wings and golden eyes are a delightful sight.
In reality, they are hardier than they seem, and in their larval phase, serious destroyers of harmful insects.
They have an unusual ‘ear’ feature that allows them to detect the ultrasound echolocation signals of predatory bats. Detecting danger, an adult will fold up its wings and flop down still on the ground to minimize the chance of being an evening meal.
Rarely seen flying about in the daytime, they are a pleasure to observe at night and welcome visitors for organic gardeners at all times.