Nature on our doorsteps: Beautiful Lacewings

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

One of the daintiest insects to be found in our gardens and parks is the Green Lacewing.

Their lime-green bodies are slender and elongated and their wings are clear, with raised veins that give them a delicate, lace-like appearance.

Green Lacewings are beautifully elegant

Green Lacewings are beautifully elegant

The Lacewing’s eyes are noticeable, being relatively large and coppery gold in colour. Their antennae are long and finely thread-like.

Although the adults have a lacey elegance, the Lacewing’s larvae look very different.

These have been described as looking like very small alligators, with six legs emerging from the top of a long, flattened brown body that tapers to a point at the other end.

Some Green Lacewing larvae have bristly hairs along their bodies and, after they have sucked their prey dry, they camouflage themselves by covering these hairs with the empty carcasses.

The jaws of the Lacewings larvae are well suited to devouring greenfly

This disguise helps to hide the larvae from their own predators.

Lacewing larvae are voracious predators, using their fierce-looking sickle-shaped jaws to devour greenfly. For this reason, these larvae are sometimes called aphid lions. They will also eat mealy bugs, mites, and other soft-bodied insects and small moth caterpillars.

Most adult Lacewings feed on pollen and nectar, but some species will also eat aphids, making both the adult and the young of this species very welcome in the chemical-free garden.

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