Common Green Lacewing

Biocontrol Agent

Lacewing larvae are beneficial to farmers and gardeners. They feed on a variety of soft-bodied insect pests; caterpillars, thrips, mealybugs, leafhoppers, and other sap-feeding insects and have the potential to reduce the severity of pest outbreaks. 
 

Common Names

Common Green Lacewing

Relative effectiveness

Common green lacewing larvae are considered generalists, but are best known as aphid predators. The larvae are sometimes called aphid lions, and have been reported to eat between 100 and 600 aphids each, although they may have difficulty finding prey in crops with hairy or sticky leaves. In small scale experiments lacewing larvae achieved various levels of control of aphids on pepper, potato, tomato, and eggplant, and have been used against Colorado potato beetle on potato and eggplant. Some degree of aphid control was obtained on corn, peas, cabbage, and apples, but only with large numbers of lacewing

Where to use

Attracted to agricultural settings, gardens, and anywhere else aphids are found outside; released in greenhouses

Most commercial strains of lacewings are best used in greenhouses, because lacewings released in open air environments tend to disperse widely. Lacewings such as C. carnea may remain in the original release location if they have sources of nectar, pollen or honeydew to feed on in the general vicinity.

About Common Green Lacewings

Unlike adults, lacewing larvae feed on a variety of soft-bodied insect pests; caterpillars, thrips, mealybugs, leafhoppers, and other sap-feeding insects. These predatory species of larvae are beneficial to farmers and gardeners, since they have the potential to reduce the severity of pest outbreaks. Lacewing larvae are active during the warmer months in northern climates, and year-round in warmer southern climates.

  • Native/Non-native: native
  • Preferred climate: arid, temperate, cold tolerant
  • Region: Lacewings are common throughout much of North America. C. carnea occurs in a wide range of habitats in northeastern, midwestern and western U.S whereas C. rufilabris may be more useful in areas where humidity tends to be high (greenhouses, irrigated crops, southeastern and midwestern U.S.)
  • Established: Yes
  • Where established: Throughout the United States.

Adults are active fliers, particularly during the evening and night and have a characteristic, fluttering flight.

Oval shaped eggs are laid singly at the end of long silken stalks and are pale green, turning gray in several days. 

The larvae, which are very active, are gray or brownish and alligator-like with well-developed legs and large pincers with which they suck the body fluids from prey. Larvae grow from <1 mm to 6-8 mm.

How to Use Common Green Lacewing

Biocontrol category: Augmentative - must be released/applied repeatedly.

When to use: In addition to commercial applications of lacewing larvae, support of natural populations is another great way to increase pest predation in your area. The spring emergence of first generation adults and larvae is well synchronized with the population peak of many garden pests.

Maximizing effectiveness: The presence of crop pests can frequently be critical to attract populations of beneficial insects, because larvae require adequate food sources to successfully develop. Additionally, lower relative humidity and abundant sources of pollen and nectar is also critical to support populations of C. carnea adults. C. rufilabris may be more useful in areas where humidity tends to be high (greenhouses, irrigated crops, southeastern and midwestern U.S.)

Pest stage: Insects can be preyed upon by predatory lacewings in the immature (larval) stage. Many of these insect pests can be found feeding on the surfaces and folds of plant foliage where they are attacked by lurking lacewing larvae.

Mode of action: Predator

Learn More
More information about conserving natural enemies.

Conservation: Because young lacewing larvae are susceptible to desiccation, they may need a source of moisture. Adult lacewings need nectar, honeydew, or pollen as food before egg laying. Therefore, plantings should include flowering plants, and a low level of aphids should be tolerated. Artificial foods and honeydew substitutes are available commercially and have been used to enhance the number and activity of adult lacewings. These products may provide sufficient nutrients to promote egg laying, but they cannot counter the dispersal behavior of newly emerged adult lacewings. Managing hedgerow plants or other vegetation may help provide alternative prey, wind shelter and even overwintering habitat. Applications of insecticides, especially broad-spectrum ones, should be avoided when possible.

Compatibility: Some species of lacewing appear to have some natural tolerance to several chemical insecticides although there may be considerable variation. Populations tolerant of pyrethroids, organophosphates, and carbaryl have been selected in the laboratory. However, population support requires careful consideration and reductions in insecticide use. Additionally, the use of herbicides should be considered when supporting populations of natural enemies, as herbicides can reduce floral and nectar availability that is key to lacewing survival.

Any time you use a pesticide, you must read and follow the label directions and comply with all applicable laws and regulations related to pesticide use. Also be sure that any pesticide used is approved for use in your country and state/province.

Commercially available: Planet Natural and Arbico Organics sell pre-hatched green lacewing (Chrysoperla rufilabris) larvae. Lacewings are commonly shipped as eggs, young larvae, pupae, and adults. C. carnea is recommended for dry areas, C. rufilabris for humid areas. Larvae are likely to remain near the release site if aphids or other prey are available. Newly emerging adults, however, will disperse in search of food, often over great distances, before laying eggs. Any mention of specific suppliers is for information purposes only, and not meant as an endorsement.

Pests Targeted by Common Green Lacewings

Feeding damage and disease transmission caused by insects like aphids, thrips, mealybugs, and leafhoppers can constrain healthy plant growth in many regions of the world. The damage associated with these various pests can occur in many places of a plant that can result in loss of yield. Control of these pests can be achieved using multiple pest management tools, however biological control is one such tactic that reduces the risk of negative effects to beneficial insects like pollinators and predators.

List of Target Pests

  • Aphids
  • Leafhoppers
  • Planthoppers
  • Thrips
  • Mealybugs
Long brown and white bug feeding on red bug.

Lacewing larva feeding on an aphid

Green leaf with black spots and holes

Feeding damage caused by melon aphids

Learn more about Lacewings

Chrysoperla 
(Neuroptera: Chrysoperla)

Lacewings in Agriculture

The common green lacewing, C. carnea, and the red-lipped green lacewing, C. rufilabris, are species of lacewings in the genus Chrysoperla and family Chrysopidae, in the order Neuroptera with over 6000 described species (Grimaldi and Engel 2005). Lacewings are holometabolous insects preying upon many soft-bodied insect species including several species of aphids, spider mites (especially red mites), thrips, whiteflies, eggs of leafhoppers, moths, and leafminers, small caterpillars, beetle larvae, and the tobacco budworm. In field studies, C. carnea was also found to control populations of citrus thrips, Scirtothrips citri (Khan and Morse 1999a, Tauber and Tauber 1993), leafhoppers, Erythroneura variabillis (Daane et al. 1996), and tobacco budworms, Heliothis virescens (Ridgway and Jones 1968). It is for  this reason that lacewing species are found in many horticultural and agricultural cropping systems, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, fiber and forage crops, ornamentals, greenhouse crops, and forests (Ridgway and Kinzer 1974, Ridgway and Murphy 1984, Amarasekare and Shearer 2013).

Another study investigated the prey preference of third instar green lacewing, C. carnea, between western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande) (Thysanoptera: Thripidae), and lettuce aphids, Nasonovia ribisnigri (Mosley) (Hemiptera: Aphididae) in laboratory experiments. Third instar C. carnea larvae readily preyed upon both thrips and aphids, with thrips mortality varying between 40 and 90%, and aphid mortality between 52 and 98%. The results of this study  indicated that C. carnea overall preferred feeding on aphids (Shrestha and Enkegaard 2013). The major predatory impact of green lacewings occurs during their predatory, polyphagous larval stage, as most adult chrysopids are free living and feed on honeydew and pollen. Due to its widespread success as a natural enemy, C. carnea (Stephens), has frequently been used as a model insect for understanding beneficial arthropods (Henry et al. 2001, Amarasekare and Shearer 2013), for this reason C. carnea has also been mass-reared and released in croplands all over the world (Henry et al. 2001, Amarasekare and Shearer 2013). In addition to these details, green lacewing biology have especially attracted research interest in the past, due to the uniqueness and diversity of species. Several morphospecies of chrysopids comprise multiple reproductively isolated species, which often can be differentiated based on courtship song characteristics (Henry et al. 1993, Henry 1985, Gerth et al. 2017).

Lacewings are also considered an important predator of long-tailed mealybug in greenhouses and interior plantscapes (Gerth et al. 2017). C. carnea has been widely used for biological control of aphids and other insect pests due to its beneficial predatory habits and compatibility with selected chemical insecticides, microbial agents, and amenability for mass rearing (Pree et al. 1989, Uddin et al., 2005, Alghamdi et al. 2018). Worldwide they rank as some of the most commonly used and commercially widely available natural enemies (Tauber et al. 2000, Amarasekare and Shearer 2013). 

Lacewing appearance and Lifecycle

Adult lacewings are typically characterized by two pairs of large, extensively veined wings (Gerth et al. 2017). Adults are pale green, about 12-20 mm long, with long antennae and bright, golden eyes. They have large, transparent, pale green wings and a delicate body. Adults are active fliers, particularly during the evening and night and have a characteristic, fluttering flight. Oval shaped eggs are laid singly at the end of long silken stalks and are pale green, turning gray in several days. The larvae, which are very active, are gray or brownish and alligator-like with well-developed legs and large pincers with which they suck the body fluids from prey. Larvae grow from <1 mm to 6-8 mm. Both C. carnea and C. rufilabris overwinter as adults, usually in leaf litter at the edge of fields. During the spring and summer, females lay several hundred small (<1 mm) eggs on leaves or twigs in the vicinity of prey. Larvae emerge in 3-6 days. The larval stage has three instars and lasts two to three weeks. Mature third instars spin round, parchment-like, silken cocoons usually in hidden places on plants. Emergence of the adults occurs in 10 to 14 days. The life cycle (under 4 weeks in summer conditions) is heavily influenced by temperature. There may be two to several generations per year. C. carnea appears to have some natural tolerance to several chemical insecticides although there may be considerable variation (Pree et al. 1989). Populations tolerant of pyrethroids, organophosphates, and carbaryl have been selected in the laboratory.

Commercial availability of lacewings

Both C. carnea and C. rufilabris are available commercially, however, improved levels of lacewing predation can also be achieved through attraction and support of lacewing populations. Supporting populations of natural enemies involves maintaining diverse habitats, as well as planting varieties of flowering plants that offer essential nectar, and pollen that can frequently be critical to lacewing survival. 

Impact of broad spectrum insecticides on lacewings

Despite evidence of reduced pesticide susceptibility of at least some Chrysoperla species, the use of broad spectrum insecticides is generally not encouraged in locations with many beneficial arthropod species (Pree et al. 1989, Henn and Weinzierl 1990). In addition, the use of herbicides can reduce the floral and nectar availability. For more information about conserving natural enemies, see the Xerces Society.

Author

Lidia Komondy
Cornell Department of Entomology

Date: April 2022

Modified from an article written by Dr. Tony Shelton: Shelton, A.M. Chrysoperla
(Neuroptera: Chrysopidae), Biological Control: A guide to Natural Enemies of North America.

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  • Chisausky, J.L., Soley, N.M., Kassim, L., Bryan, C.J., Miranda, G., Gage, K.L., and Sipes, S.D. 2020. Syrphidae of Southern Illinois: Diversity, floral associations, and preliminary assessment of their efficacy as pollinators. Biodiversity Data Journal 8, e57331.

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  • Ridgway R.L. Murphy W.L. 1984. Biological control in the field, pp. 220-227 In. Canard M. Semeria Y. New T.R.Biology of Chrysopidae. Dr. W. Junk Publishers, The Hague, The Netherlands.

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  • Shrestha,G., and Annie Enkegaard. 2013. The green lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea: Preference between lettuce aphids, Nasonovia ribisnigri, and western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis. Journal of Insect Science 13(1): 94.

  • Tauber, M.J. and Tauber, C.A. 1993. Adaptations to temporal variation in habitats: categorizing, predicting, and influencing their evolution in agroecosystems In: Evolution of Insect Pests (K.C. Kim & B.A. McPheron, Eds.), pp.103-127.

  • Terry, T.J., & Nelson, C.R. 2017. Composition and seasonal abundance of hover flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) at a mid elevation site in Central Utah. Western North American Naturalist 77(4): 487-499.

Portrait of Amara Dunn
Amara Dunn-Silver

Senior Extension Associate

NYS Integrated Pest Management

Amara Dunn-Silver
Lidia Komondy

PhD Student

Department of Entomology

Lidia Komondy
  • lmk275 [at] cornell.edu