NC State Extension Publications

Background and Description

Many species of green lacewings (LW) are common in North America, and many serve as important predators in Southeastern orchards. LW larvae (and, in some species, adults as well) are significant consumers of aphids, mites, thrips, lepidopteran eggs, and other soft prey.

Adults are around 1/2 to 1 inch (12.5 to 25mm) long, light green, and have netlike wings that are positioned like roofs over their bodies when at rest. Larvae, sometimes called "aphid lions," are 1/4 to 1/3 inch (6 to 8mm) long, shaped like spindles, and have forward-protruding mouthparts. Eggs are whitish and laid singly or in groups on the ends of long stalks.

Green lacewing adult

Green lacewing adult

Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

Green lacewing adult

Green lacewing adult

Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

Green lacewing larva

Green lacewing larva

Steve Schoof, NCSU

Lacewing eggs on apple leaf

Lacewing eggs on apple leaf

Steve Schoof, NCSU

Lacewing egg

Lacewing egg

David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

Life history

Most LW species overwinter as cocooned larvae, though at least one (Chrysoperla carnea) overwinters as an adult. In season, adult females lay 400 to 500 eggs each. Larvae hatch in about two weeks, but up to 2 months may be required before adults develop. There are usually 2 to 4 generations per year.

Predation

Some species of LW adults are predatory while others feed mainly on honeydew and pollen (though even these will supplement their diets with aphids). Larvae feed on green apple and spirea aphids as well as mites, thrips, and the eggs of caterpillars. Larvae impale their prey, inject an enzyme that dissolves the body contents, and then use their jaws to suck out the digested material. One lacewing may consume up to 150 aphids per week.

Lacewing larva feeding on green aphids

Lacewing larva feeding on green aphids

Steve Schoof, NCSU

Author:

Extension Entomology Specialist (Fruits/Vegetables)
Entomology

Publication date: Feb. 23, 2015

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