This inspiring new guide reveals the fascinating role that insects play in the natural world.
Gardens help bring us closer to nature. Having your own outdoor growing space - whether it's a small window box or full-scale allotment - gives you a front-row seat on the wonderful workings of the natural world.
In this short extract from "Bees, Bugs & Butterflies: A family guide to our garden heroes & helpers", Ben Raskin (Head of Horticulture at the Soil Association) explains how even ethereal-looking creatures like lacewings are everyday heroes of nature. Find out more about these fascinating insects, and how you can encourage them in your garden.
What's great about lacewings and their larvae?
Lacewings get their name from their fantastically fragile see-through wings, which are so delicate it's hard to imagine how they even fly. Don’t be fooled though: they are ferocious predators, especially in the larval stages, and they're also great pollinators.
What do lacewings eat?
There are more than a thousand species of lacewings, so it’s not surprising that they don’t all eat the same things. Many are vegetarian and feed on pollen and nectar, while others mostly eat insects such as aphids and mites. Many species will eat both, depending on what is available.
Whichever type you have in your garden they are doing some good.
Lacewing larvae - perfect for pest control
Although the adults eat a few pests, it’s the babies that make lacewings so popular with gardeners. The lacewing larva is so successful at eating aphids (greenfly, blackfly and whitefly) that it has the nickname the ‘aphid lion’ (or 'aphid wolf'). A single larva can eat 200 aphids a week.
If you’re keen on natural pest control without pesticides, why not encourage more lacewings to your garden by building a simple lacewing hotel.
Make your own 'lacewing hotel'
Lacewings are one of our great garden allies, with a huge appetite for aphids. Providing the right habitat for them is important, but the best way to load your garden with lacewings is to give them a lovely hotel to hibernate in over winter. When they wake up in the spring, they will be well-rested and very hungry.
Here’s a really simple way to make a lacewing hotel, using materials from around the house.
Did you know? Fun facts about lacewings
- Adult lacewings have ears at the base of their wings They can hear bats echolocation signals, and then close their wings up to appear smaller and avoid getting eaten.
- Lacewing larvae love eating aphids In fact they love them so much, and eat so many (estimated to be up to 100 a day) ,that they are called 'Aphid Lions'.
- Lacewing larvae kill their prey with fatal injections The larva inject digesting juices into the aphid which dissolves its insides in just a couple of minutes. The larva then sucks the digested juices out and eats it.