Lacewings are insects with wings, extremely common, we have all seen them in the garden throughout the summer months. They have long slender bodies with are around 2cm in length and have a 4cm wing span. They have bright green bodies on most of the 18 species, some are brown, they all have transparent fairy wings with delicate lime green veins running through them. Really quite beautiful insects, but are they a garden pest? or a garden pet?
They have a simple lifecycle, the adult lacewing with lay its eggs in early spring, usually March, on the underside of a leaf. They are tiny cigar shaped, white / green eggs, which are suspended by a type of umbilical cord, they can be laid singular or grouped together or clustered. They will take a couple of days to harden and then to hatch into a larvae, imaged below. The Larvae will then feed and feed and when they are well fed they will pupate themselves into a silk ball on the underside of the leaf. After two weeks it will hatch into the Lacewing. The adult Lacewing will hibinate throughout the winter, very few will survive, the ones that do, emerge in early spring and start the process over.
Lacewing adult, that eats aphids - so do their young lavae
Lacewing Larvae eating an aphid
Lacewings and especially their larvae, gobble up Aphids as though there were no tomorrow. You will probably find lacewings indoors during autumn and winter; leave them to over-winter in the comfort of your home, if they are not an eyesore.
The larvae of the lacewing also eats greenfly and blackfly, and consumes many times its own body weight each day. This makes the lacewings and their larvae a good friend in the garden. However, the larvae can actually look a little bit like an 'enemy'. Please study the image, and get to know this little insect as a friend. It will repay you handsomely by feasting on your aphids - as can be seen in the image.
©2001 (Approx 8x actual size)
Lacewing larvae - courtesy of Wiki Commons - tucking into a feast of aphid. Take a good look and learn to recognise. It is NOT a pest, and will do no harm whatever to your plants.
As with ladybirds, if you have an infestation of aphids, but also have lacewings present - especially the larvae, then leave nature to do the clearing up for you.
Lacewings can be attracted into the garden by planting the herb Dill.
If you have a regular infestation of aphids and do not want to use a chemical remedy you can purchase lacewing larvae or lacewing eggs. By harvesting your own lacewings you can speed up the natural way of an aphid infestation.