Unless you keep all of your plants indoors where they have minimal contact with the outside world, you will have to deal with pests on a regular basis. Lice, mites, thrips and caterpillars are just a few of the most common bugs that come out of hiding in spring and start eating our favorite garden and balcony plants. Most gardeners don’t want to use pesticides to control the tiny invaders, and for good reasons. They are not only harmful to the vermin, but also to many small garden helpers, pollinators, often our pets and even children. A much better, safer and also environmentally friendly method is to attract the natural enemies of the pests. In today’s article, we would like to show you simple methods on how to attract lacewings. Here you can learn more about these fascinating little flying insects and how to spot them in the garden.
Invite beneficial insects into your garden and say goodbye to vermin
Identify lacewings in the garden
Lacewing, Haft, Lacewing – these tiny beneficial insects are known by several names in the gardening and entomological community. Lacewing literally means something like flower fly, but it is not at all related to the pesky housefly family. In fact, it forms its own order of insects – Chrysoperla. In our regions, the common lacewing, also known as green lacewing or Chrysoperla carnea called, spread. There are also brown lacewings, but these are much rarer.
Adult lacewings are easily identified by their slender, neon green bodies, large metallic gold-green eyes, and long antennae. Her four wings are transparent and iridescent, with a lacy veined pattern. Adults are mainly nocturnal and twilight active and can therefore be observed more in the early morning or evening hours. During the day, they usually hide under leaves or in other shady areas. They have a short lifespan of only about 4 to 6 weeks.
Lacewings somewhat resemble tiny dragonflies
They reach a size of 1 to 1.5 cm
Larvae look nothing like adult lacewings. They have elongated, slightly humped and spiny bodies with brown and white markings and large sickle-like mandibles. Because of their carnivorous nature, entomologists have given them the name aphid lions. Like ladybug larvae, they are sometimes compared to tiny crocodiles. Lacewing larvae have one of the most unique camouflage methods of any insect. They arrange various materials on the spines of their backs to blend in with their surroundings. This includes the dried remains of their prey, as well as bits of moss, twigs, bark, etc.
Aphid lions will eat anything smaller than them
This lacewing larva is barely recognizable under its camouflage
Finally – the eggs of the lacewing. Although they are tiny, they are actually very easy to spot in the garden. They are pearly white and sit at the end of long, silky stalks. Female lacewings lay these balloon-like eggs in a spiral pattern on the underside of leaves. The larvae hatch within 3 to 4 days.
The eggs and their spiral arrangement are absolutely distinctive
diet and lifestyle
Adult lacewings are often credited with controlling various vermin in the garden. However, it is actually the aphid lions that do most of the work. When they first hatch from their eggs, they are little more than a millimeter long. Over the course of 2-3 weeks, they gradually grow to about 8 mm in length.
Aphid lions have voracious appetites at all stages of their early life. They can consume up to 200 prey items per day, including mites, aphids, thrips, beetle larvae, small caterpillars, snails and slugs, fly larvae, insect eggs, etc. After reaching their maximum size, the larvae spin spherical cocoons and pupate into adult lacewings . They appear after about 5 days. There are two to three generations of lacewings per year.
As adults, lacewings continue to feed on insects, but also on pollen and nectar and aphid honeydew. They are great pollinators and even more welcome than bees to many gardeners. Finally, the latter can sting, which can pose a serious threat to people allergic to bee venom.
Aphid lions have an irrepressible ravenous appetite
The adults hatch from these cocoons, so be sure not to disturb them
Lacewings only eat about 200 insects a week, their larvae eat the same amount every day
But they are valuable pollinators
Attracting lacewings – simple methods
There are certain plants that the lacewing loves more than others. These belong mainly to the daisy and umbellifer families. Asters, angelica, cumin, coriander, cosmos, dill, dandelions, sunflowers, coneflowers, yarrow, girl’s eyes, goldenrod, daisies, and sedum all provide a good source of food and shelter. Many gardeners also report that the smell of catnip attracts the small beneficial insects. All of these plants are also often attacked by aphids – a favorite food for both larvae and adult lacewings.
Adult lacewings have a sweet tooth
Catnip isn’t just a magnet for fluffy four-legged friends
If you notice a pest infestation, you can also attract lacewings to the exact location by spraying the plant with a solution of sugar or honey and water – about 1 tablespoon per 12 oz. The sweet water mimics honeydew and can quickly attract the flying lacewing attract.
If that doesn’t work, there is also an alternative solution – lacewing larvae are actually for sale. They come in small cardboard containers and can be placed directly in the infested areas.
Lacewings are available in many garden centers and online shops
In winter, lacewings look for a sheltered spot to hibernate. In nature they do this in piles of leaves and hay or under tree bark. They are also big fans of insect hotels. You can buy pre-made ones at any garden center or, even better, make one yourself. Hang the insect hotel near your plants in a wind-protected and warm place.
These extraordinary hotels are a lot easier to build than you might think
You too can and should attract the useful and predatory lacewing if you have garden or balcony plants. They are small but hardworking and make a wonderful alternative to chemical pesticides.
So what methods will you use now?