An underappreciated friend
Pollination and pest control are two major services provided by insects in agricultural and garden settings. While the flashy pollinators (mainly bees and butterflies) are fairly well known, many of the predatory insects that help control pests are not. Green lacewings (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae) are a good example of an underappreciated predatory insect. As larvae, lacewings are voracious predators of soft bodied insects such as aphids. As you can see in my video, they insert their mouth parts into their prey and suck the juices out. I’ve seen them eat over 100 aphids in a day!
Adult females lay their eggs on silk stalks, as you can see in the featured photo. I took that after that female had laid her egg on a flower petal. Tiny first instar lacewing larva hatch out of these eggs, then go through 3 instars before pupating. Adults emerge from the round, silky pupa (below).
Once you know what to look for, these little predators can be found in many places. Often including your garden. It’s easiest to find the eggs. Look carefully on the tops and bottom of leaves, particularly near aphids. Depending on the type of lacewing, the eggs can be laid singly or in clusters. New eggs are green; the color slowly change to gray as they get ready to hatch. It is also common to find the larvae in places that you see aphids; roses, broccoli, and prunes are good places to look. Adults are attracted to lights at night and can be found around your outdoor dinner candle or porch light.
You can even purchase lacewings from an insect supplier to help combat insect problems in your garden. Really, they are great!