Green Lacewing Feeding Preferences

Green lacewings are common predators that will feed on a variety of small insects and are available from many commercial suppliers. If you release green lacewings in your garden, which of your pests will this predator eat, and which does it like best?

Order a small quantity of green lacewing eggs (see MBCN Vol. 2, No. 3 for more information on ordering insects). After they have hatched, place a number of them individually in small containers. Collect whatever insect pests you can find from your garden. Check cabbage plants for caterpillars, green beans for aphids or spider mites, tomatoes for whiteflies (in some areas), and shrubs for different caterpillars or aphids. You can pick leaves with the pests on them, or remove larger insects from the plant. Place one pest insect (or leaf) in a container with a lacewing larva. What does the lacewing do? Will it eat the pest, or is it too big? If you put two different pests in together which does it prefer?

Try to raise some of the lacewing larvae by feeding them small aphids until they are about 3/8 inch long. Once again, collect a variety of garden pests and offer them to the lacewings. Now that they are larger do the lacewings accept different prey? What is their choice now if offered two different pests?

- Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin - Madison

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