Common Name: Lacewing
Scientific Name: Chrysoperla sp.
Description: Adults are light green with long slender antennae, golden eyes and long delicately veined wings that are1/2 to 3/4-inch long. C. carnea can be identified by the dark straight line on the side (genae or cheeks) of the head, which runs from the eye to the mouth. Its body is green with a wide pale stripe along the top of the body. C. rufilabris has red genae and black cross veins. Larvae grow to 1/2-inch long and have spindle-shaped bodies with prominent pincher-like mouthparts, resembling tiny alligators. Larvae of both common species have two stripes on the head, but they are straight-sided on C. rufilabris while those of C. carnea widen towards the back of the head.
Another common Texas species is Chrysoperla oculata Say, the goldeneye lacewing, in which adults are distinctively marked with a black band on the front of the head that runs underneath the antennal sockets and a red “Y” between and above the sockets and red encircling the second segment of each antenna. Larvae appear speckled with white and dark body spots. This species overwinters as a last stage (instar) larva in a silken cocoon in the soil.
Life Cycle: Complete metamorphosis. Mated and fed females lay eggs in groups. White eggs are laid on 1/4 inch slender stalks which keep young larvae from eating each other after they hatch. Larvae grow through three stages (instars) for 2 to 3 weeks before each spins a spherical white silken cocoon. The adult emerges in about 5 days. Winter is spent in the cocoon or adult stage, depending on species. Adults disperse widely after emerging before mating and laying eggs. C. rufilabris adults can be found throughout the year in central Texas, but they are most abundant in the fall. C. carnea is more abundant in the spring and in the fall their bodies become reddish-brown as they prepare to overwinter. Some species have several generations per year while others have one.
Habitat and Food Source(s): Larvae have sickle-shaped jaws (mandibles) with which they pierce prey and suck out body juices. Adults have chewing mouthparts. Adults are poor fliers, active at night and feed on pollen, nectar and honeydew (the exudate of aphids and other sucking insects). Some species are predaceous as adults to a limited extent. The larvae, called “aphid lions”, are extremely carnivorous and predaceous on many soft-bodied insects and mites, including insect eggs, thrips, mealybugs, immature whiteflies and small caterpillars. Larvae have sickle-shaped jaws that contain tubes with which they can inject prey with a paralyzing venom and then suck out the body fluids. They can consume over 200 aphids or other prey per week.
Pest Status: Beneficial insect/natural enemy; predatory larvae and adults; medically harmless. Fifteen species of green lacewings (Chrysopidae) in three genera occur in east Texas. The common green lacewing, Chrysoperla (=Chrysopa) carnea Stephens, is adapted to live in fields and gardens while C. rufilabris Burmeister is more adapted for living in trees.
Management: None, this is a beneficial insect.
Literature: Agnew et al. 1981; Henn & Weinzeri 1990; Mahr 1994.