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Green lacewing, the genesis of aphid lions

Green lacewing adult on flower

Green lacewing also goes by more dramatic and telling names: golden-eyed fairy, aphid lion, aphid wolf… and each name reveals how much of a beneficial insect this is to a gardener trying to control pests. Larvae from this insect family seem to have a single goal in life: to devour aphids.

Adults, for their part, take on another task in the orchard grove and the vegetable patch: they are excellent pollinators. Read also:

Green lacewing, what are we talking about exactly?

The common name “green lacewing” actually relates to three distinct species – but they look so much alike that they’re hard to tell apart. The main difference among them is the habitat where they live:

  • Chysoperla carnea is common in most of Europe and is usually found in trees.
  • In more continental climates, the habitat of Chysoperla kolthoffi (or Chysoperla affinis) is best described as the grass-level strata of the garden (lawns, vegetable patch, etc).
  • Lastly, Chysoperla lucasina is more common in Mediterranean climates, and also patronizes grassy areas.


Adults are between 23 and 30 mm long (about an inch). Their body is long and narrow, green in color. There is a thin yellow line along the back on their thorax and abdomen. In Winter, during hibernation, green lacewing takes on a yellowish to brown-red hue. Larva vary in size according to their developmental stage. In the first stage, they’re only 2mm long, and reach 8mm (1/4th inch) in the third stage. Their body shape is also narrow, yellow-brown in color and hairs stick out on the sides. Typical of this kind of larva is the pair of huge mandibles that are larger even than their head.


Green lacewing eggsAdults are mostly active at night, from Spring to Fall. Like the ladybug, they change color as Winter rolls in. Taking the cue from shortening days and dropping temperatures, green lacewing gather together to find shelter and hibernate during several months. In the next Spring, they turn green again and quickly start reproducing. Depending on how much food is available and how diverse it is, a female green lacewing can lay over 20 eggs a day. After 4 to 10 days, the eggs hatch and the newborn green lacewing larva reaches adulthood within 2 to 3 weeks.

How is green lacewing a beneficial animal?

Aphid lion and aphid wolf is another name for lacewing larvaThere are two advantages to welcoming green lacewing to your garden:

  1. Adults mainly feed on nectar and pollen – this makes them excellent pollinators, something every gardener will appreciate having in the vegetable patch and in the orchard!
  2. Green lacewing larvae, on the other hand, constantly devour a great many pests and garden parasites. Of course, these “aphid lions” chow down on those sap-sucking buggers, but they’ll also feast on thrips, whitefly, and scale insects.

How to attract green lacewing to the garden

Since adults essentially rely on nectar and pollen for food, it’s important for your garden to count a great many flowers, with blooming periods that overlap and cover the whole year. You’ve got several options here:

  • For a vegetable patch, intersperse a few flower-bearing perennials or annuals.
  • For the garden at large, create spaces that contain many flowers such as flower beds, populate edges with bloomers, and why turn a portion of the garden into a wild prairie.

Make hibernating easier, too: build an insect hotel and complement it with shelters that the insect might find appealing: a pile of leaves, a few tiles or clay shingle laid down across a couple sticks, etc. Food-craving larvae, pollinating adults: it makes perfect sense for green lacewing and gardeners to get along well! They’re the best of allies that will make your garden flower and bear fruit abundantly.

Read also:

Green lacewing on grass

Smart tip about green lacewing

If you order lacewing to control pests in your garden, it’s best to order them at the egg stage. Larvae will stay put and stay in your garden instead of flying away as adults would.

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