Lacewings are small light-green bodied insects with pale green wings when they are an adult. Adult lacewings do not eat other insects, instead choosing pollen, nectar, or honeydew as their food source. But what about the larvae? How can you use lacewings for pest control?
Yes, lacewings make a great option for pest control. Lacewing larvae eat a variety of insect pests including aphids, thrips, mealybugs, whiteflies, mites, and leafhoppers. In fact, lacewing larvae will eat up to 1,000 aphids a day.
One of the greatest ways to deal with any pest is to allow nature to do its job. There’s no need to use expensive and damaging pesticides or strange old wives’ tales. Instead, just let your garden take control and allow beneficial insects to eat pests.
But what exactly will lacewings eat? And how can you encourage them to come into your garden and do all the hard work for you?
Do Lacewings Eat Aphids?
Adult lacewings do not eat aphids. Instead, they consume an insect-free diet of pollen, honeydew and plant matter. It is actually their babies (or larvae) who will consume insects – including aphids.
Lacewing larvae can consume so many aphids that they are often referred to as aphid lions. They are one of the greatest predators of aphids. As mentioned, they can actually consume up to 1,000 aphids in a single day!
Do Lacewings Eat Thrips?
Yes, lacewings do eat thrips. Again, it’s not the adult aphids who will consume thrips but it is the larvae who do. For the same reasons that they consume aphids, lacewings need protein in order to grow quickly.
By consuming thrips and aphids, larvae can grow into adult lacewings and so the cycle of the lacewing continues. With a good source of protein (and pests), lacewing larvae would not be able to mature into adults.
Do Lacewings Eat Other Pests?
Lacewing larvae won’t just limit themselves to thrips and aphids. In fact, they are known to eat a range of common garden pests that you may want to get rid of including whiteflies, mites and leafhoppers.
Fortunately, if you have a pest infestation in your garden then lacewings will come. They’re pretty good at hunting out insects that they want to eat.
How Do You Encourage Lacewings?
Besides having an abundance of bugs for lacewing to larvae to eat, there are a few other things you can do to encourage lacewings to set up shop in your garden.
First, like most insects, lacewings love nectar. This means you’ll need to have borders stocked with nectar-rich plants. This won’t just encourage lacewings but will also entice other pollinating insects into your garden such as bees and hoverflies.
It’s also a good idea to provide places for lacewings to overwinter. A log pile is one of the easiest ways to encourage a range of beneficial bugs into your garden – including lacewings, of course!
One of the easiest ways to achieve all of these is by being less tidy. This means letting your grass grow longer, not clearing away plant debris and letting nature take control of your garden.
Are Lacewings Essential for Pollination?
While adult lacewings do consume nectar and pollen as their only food sources, they will create pollination cycles by going from plant to plant. However, lacewings are not considered essential for pollination. They will not provide as much pollination as a bee, wasp, or even hoverfly.
Adult lacewings are beneficial mainly for laying eggs that hatch to larvae. Lacewing larvae are great for pest control as they consume thrips, aphids, mealybugs, mites, leafhoppers, and other insects.
Since lacewing larvae are so beneficial for pest control, it is important to create an environment that attracts them. Lacewings prefer to hide in tall grass, weeds, shrubs, and trees. Adult lacewings are attracted to flowers in the aster family including daisies and cosmos. They also enjoy herbs like coriander, dill, and oregano.
Lacewings provide many benefits to your garden. Adult lacewings pollinate as they feed on the nectar and pollen of plants. They will lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. These eggs will hatch to lacewing larvae.
The larvae are wonderful for pest control and prevention in your garden. Lacewing larvae will eat aphids, mites, whiteflies, thrips, mealybugs, and leafhoppers. Lacewing larvae use their pincher-like mouths to attack and eat their prey and eat them.
Once they have grown for 2-3 weeks, they will enter a cocoon and emerge as an adult lacewing. You can purchase lacewings online or at your local garden store.