Lacewing sitting on a leaf

Lacewings – your pest control heroes in the garden

'Bees, Bugs & Butterflies' (Leaping Hare Press), published in association with the Soil Association & Friends of the Earth, shines the spotlight on nature's heroes and helpers - including the little known lacewing.
  Published:  19 Jan 2018    |      4 minute read

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.

Cover of Bees, Bugs & Butterflies by Ben Raskin
Cover of Bees, Bugs & Butterflies by Ben Raskin
Credit: Leaping Hare Press

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.

Lacewing sitting on leaf
Lacewing sitting on leaf
Credit: Shutterstock

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.

Making a lacewing hotel, pt1 - Illustrations by Tonwen Jones
Illustrations by Tonwen Jones
Credit: Leaping Hare Press
Making a lacewing hotel, pt12 - Illustrations by Tonwen Jones
Illustrations by Tonwen Jones
Credit: Leaping Hare Press

Did you know? Fun facts about lacewings

  1. 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.
  2. 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'.
  3. 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.

Buy the book - 15% discount

Find out more about a plethora of pollinators and predators in "Bees, Bugs & Butterflies", written by Ben Raskin, with illustrations by Tonwen Jones - published by Leaping Hare Press at £9.99.

Order before 28 February to get a 15% discount - simply enter the code BUGS at checkout.

The book also features fun pull-out activities for children, including stickers, a Garden Heroes game and a beetle mask. Both kids and adults can have a go at building a Bug Apartment Block, the perfect shelter for a whole range of helpful insects.

"You’ll be amazed by the tiny heroes living in your garden! Explore how mini beasts make a big difference to your life on your earth."

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth

love bugs? Join the Great British Bee Count