Sometimes the nastiest looking bugs are the most beneficial for your garden. Because of their scary appearance they are often mistaken as the culprit doing the damage in your garden, especially because they are often found among curled and destroyed leaves. Other times they are the collateral damage of the war against  garden pests.

If you have noticed this long, flying insect in your garden before ( pictured above), it’s probably not something you easily ignored or forgot about. With long, skeleton-like wings and big, dark eyes, these insects are not often welcomed into gardens with open arms. When handled, adult lacewings can rub together a pair of glands that releases a strong, unpleasant odour. Adults are attracted to lights and often swarm patio lights at night. So what is beneficial about these, you ask?

While adult lacewings are harmless and feed only on nectar and pollen, the larvae are active predators of many pesky garden insects. Often referred to as the “aphid lion,” a single lacewing larvae can consume up to 200 aphids a week. The best part about these larvae is that their taste extends beyond just the aphid; spider mites (especially red mites), whitefly, mealybugs, thrips, leafhoppers, and some forms of beetle and moth larvae are also on its menu. Don’t spray these little guys because they are eating the insect that is causing the damage!

Larvae will feed for 2-3 weeks, spin a cocoon, and then in 2 weeks emerge as an adult. Adults will lay eggs, and eggs will hatch in about 5 days. This cycle can continue all summer if you provide lots of flowers to attract adult lacewings, as their diet solely consists of nectar and pollen.

Plants you can use to attract adult lacewings:

  • Bee Balm
  • Catmint
  • Liatris
  • Butterfly Bush

So don’t be scared if you see these different life-stages of the lacewing pictured below.

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So please, don’t judge a bug by its scary looking appearance. If we learn about beneficial insects we can help our gardens grow with little maintenance! Check back for our next installment of “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” .

Check out our other article on ladybug larvae.