Fifteen species of the Green Lacewing occur in Texas. In the Galveston County area, three species are commonly seen (Chrysoperla carnea, C. rufilabris and C. oculata). While the adult stage typically feeds on pollen, nectar and honeydew, some species are predaceous as adults to a limited extent.
Green Lacewing adults are light green with long slender antennae, golden eyes and long delicately veined wings that are transparent and extend beyond the abdomen. The body length is about 1/2 to 3/4-inch long. Adults are poor fliers and are attracted to lights at night. They can produce a noxious odor when handled.
Green Lacewing female lay their eggs at the end of long (about 1/4 inch) stalks, presumably to protect them from ants and other lacewing larvae, as they are strongly cannibalistic. Eggs may be laid in a random fashion but is very commonly deposited in a distinctive spiral fashion on leaves or in a straight line on stems. During the Fall season, leaves of the Dutchman’s Pipe vine at the entrance arbor at the Master Garden Demonstration Garden at the Extension Office are typically loaded with eggs laid by Green Lacewings. Check it out!
While Green Lacewing adults typically do not feed on insects, the larval stages are voracious predators. Green Lacewing larvae are called “aphid lions” for good reason, as they are especially fond of aphids. They also prey on a wide variety of other soft-bodied insects and mites, including insect eggs, thrips, mealybugs, immature whiteflies and small caterpillars.
The larval stage of the Green Lacewing is sometimes confused with the larval stage of Lady Beetles. Larvae of Green Lacewings have spindle-shaped bodies with prominent pincher-like mouthparts and resemble tiny alligators. Larvae of many species of Lady Beetles have spine-like projections and appear to be armored for combat. The armor-like exterior oftentimes has brightly colored flecks.
The sickle-shaped jaws (known as mandibles) of Green Lacewing larvae are used to capture and drain prey of their body fluids. The jaws contain tubes with which they can inject prey with a paralyzing venom and then suck out the body fluids. They can consume over 200 aphids or other prey per week.
As Master Gardeners, we always recommend to homeowners that before reaching for an insecticide, first try to identify the insect or determine if it is a pest. It just may be a beneficial insect that is a rather odd-looking critter in its larval stage.
Beneficials in the Garden & Landscape is an Earth-KindTM program coordinated through Extension Horticulture at Texas A&M University. Earth-Kind uses research-proven techniques to provide maximum gardening and landscape enjoyment while preserving and protecting our environment.
This web site is maintained by Master Gardener Laura Bellmore, under the direction of William M. Johnson, Ph.D., County Extension Agent-Horticulture & Master Gardener Program Coordinator.
All digital photographs are the property of the Galveston County Master Gardener Association, Inc. (GCMGA) © 2002-2006 GCMGA - All Rights Reserved.