From the title, you might immediately think of the super hero named the Green Lantern. On a miniature scale, you wouldn’t be far off. If you go out at night and look at your porch light, you might catch a glimpse of a fantastic, beneficial insect. Amid the moths, you will see a greenish looking, long fly. It has clear, green-veined wings that are held upright and will be parallel with its body. You are looking at the green lacewing and if you have them, your flower garden and vegetable patch are going to be protected from aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, and caterpillars.
Green defender might not be the best term to describe the green lacewing. Though the adult is green, it doesn’t eat many of your bad bugs. It consumes more nectar and pollen than insects. If you want to see the cold, killer side of the green lacewing, you have to look back at the wild years of its adolescence.
Brown Alligator Tanks
Young green lacewings look nothing like the fragile adult. Lacewing larvae are a brownish color, have six legs, look like a mini alligator and are built like a tank. When aphids see the lacewing’s sickle shaped mandibles, they are seeing the grim reaper. When the lacewing attacks, it closes its needle sharp pincers and injects digestive enzymes that turn the insides of an aphid into soup in ninety seconds. That’s faster than you can make a cup of noodles. After the enzymes have done their job, the lacewing uses those sharp mandibles like straws and sucks out the visceral broth. Once done, the larva goes on the prowl and begins searching for its next meal. In one week, a single lacewing larva will kill up to 200 insects.
What about the Tank?
Some species of lacewing will glue the dead body parts of its victims to its own body. The layers get so thick that the lacewing larva begins to resemble a small tank. Wild years of adolescence indeed! The lacewing does this as a protection against ants. Ants love aphids. Ants will milk aphids for their sweet honey dew (which is feces; yes, insects are nasty). If danger comes, ants will protect their aphid cows. Not even ants can keep the lacewing aphid wolf away. The lacewing larva moves in with its thick coating of dead insects and begins to devour the aphids. The lifeless layers are so thick that the ants cannot hurt the lacewing. It continues eating until all the aphids are dead or the number of ants forces it to retreat.
It’s Good to be Green
Green lacewings are beneficial insects; they eat a great number of bad bugs. Farmers and vegetable growers will purchase lacewing eggs in bulk and spread them throughout their produce to drastically reduce the number of aphids. Next time you are standing beneath your porch light and you see a green lacewing, don’t go for the flyswatter, rather collect it and put it on your favorite rose bush. When the green defender goes to work, you won’t be disappointed.