The Beauty and the Beast

Apr 3, 2009

She looked like a ballerina, with her long, thin antennae; slender, delicate body; and translucent, finely veined wings.

She dropped down on a stem in a UC Davis flower bed. Her eyes glowed a metallic gold. Perhaps she was about to feed on pollen, honeydew or an aphid. Maybe she was just investigating a site to lay her eggs.

 Whatever, she graced a plant for only a moment and then was gone.

Lacewings lay their eggs on plant stems so that the emerging larvae can devour aphids, mites, thrips, soft scales and other soft-bodied prey. Dinner's ready!  In fact, lacewing larvae eat so many aphids they’re called “aphid lions.” They also eat each other.

The green lacewing (Chrysopa spp.) is both a beauty and a beast. As an adult, it’s a thing of beauty. In the larva stage, it acts like a beast, complete with fierce-looking sicklelike mandibles. It's a beneficial beast, though.  Gardeners welcome its voracious appetite and cheer when they see macro images of a lacewing larva lunging forward, impaling an aphid, and then sucking the juices.

Take that, you aphid!

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

WHERE'S DINNER?--This green lacewing (Chrysopa spp.) checks out the menu in a UC Davis flower garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Green lacewing