Lacewings are a group of insects that are known for their delicate, lacy wings and their predatory habits. They are important predators in ecosystems, helping to control pests and maintain a balanced ecosystem. They play a crucial role in the food chain as both predators and prey and are an important component of many agricultural and horticultural systems.
Where to find Lacewings
Lacewings are most commonly found in temperate regions in many habitats, including gardens, fields, forests, and wetlands. However, some species are also found in tropical and subtropical regions.
What Does Lacewing Look Like?
There are two main groups of lacewings: green lacewings and brown lacewings.
- Green lacewings: They are usually bright green in color, with delicate, lacy wings that are usually about 1 to 2 inches (2-5 cm) in length. They have large, compound eyes and long, slender antennae. As adults, they feed on nectar and pollen from flowers, but as larvae, they are voracious predators that feed on a wide range of pests, including aphids, mites, thrips, and small caterpillars.
- Brown lacewings: They are less well-known than green lacewings but are still important predators of pests. They are typically brown or gray in color, with long, slender antennae and delicate wings. They are usually about 1 to 2 inches (2-5 cm) in length. As adults, they feed on nectar and pollen from flowers, but as larvae, they are voracious predators that feed on a wide range of insects and mites.
The life cycle of lacewings consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
- Egg: Eggs are usually laid on the tips of plant stems or leaves or in other protected areas. They are usually laid singly or in small clusters and are often protected by a filamentous cover.
- Larva: The larva hatches from the egg and begins to feed immediately. It is a voracious predator, feeding on a wide range of insects and mites, including aphids, thrips, and small caterpillars. The larva has large, pincer-like mandibles that it uses to capture its prey.
- Pupa: When the llarva has finished feeding, it spins a cocoon and transforms into a pupa. The pupa is the stage in which the lacewing undergoes metamorphosis and becomes an adult.
- Adult: The adult emerges from the pupal case, pumping its wings to inflate them. The adult feeds on nectar and pollen from flowers and mates, beginning the cycle anew.
Why a Beneficial Insect?
Lacewings are beneficial insects because they play an important role in controlling pest populations and maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Some of the reasons why lacewings are beneficial include:
- Predator of pests: Lacewing larvae feed on a wide range of pests, including aphids, mites, thrips, and small caterpillars. By controlling pest populations, lacewings help to reduce damage to crops and ornamental plants and prevent the spread of diseases.
- Pesticide-free pest control: Lacewings are a natural form of pest control, which helps to reduce the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides. This is important for the health of the environment, as well as for human health and safety.
- Essential component of ecosystems: Lacewings play an important role in many ecosystems, serving as a food source for other predators and helping to maintain a balanced food chain.
- Attractive to gardeners: The delicate, lacy wings of adult lacewings make them an attractive addition to gardens and landscapes. By attracting them, gardeners can help to control pest populations and enjoy a more diverse and healthy ecosystem.
Attract this Beneficial Insect to your Garden
There are several ways to attract lacewings to your garden:
- Provide food: Adult lacewings feed on nectar and pollen from flowers. To attract them, plant various flowers that bloom at different times throughout the growing season. This will provide a food source for adult lacewings throughout the year. Some popular lacewing host plants include cilantro, dill, fennel, yarrow, cosmos, or sunflower.
- Create a suitable habitat: Lacewings need a safe and protected place to lay their eggs. Provide a suitable habitat by planting shrubs, tall grasses, and other vegetation that provides shelter and protection.
- Minimize pesticide use: Lacewings are more likely to thrive in gardens free from harmful chemicals and pesticides. Minimize the use of pesticides and instead opt for natural forms of pest control, such as companion planting and hand-picking pests.
- Offer a water source: Lacewings need a source of water to drink. Provide a shallow water dish or a shallow bird bath for them to drink from.
- Buy lacewing eggs or larvae: You can purchase eggs or larvae from garden supply stores or online. Once released, they will seek out and feed on pests in your garden.
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.