Lady Beetles and Praying Mantises are well known to be excellent pest controllers, but there are other insects that are equally beneficial, including Green Lacewings. These distinctive green insects with golden eyes and lacy wings feed mostly on nectar, pollen and honeydew (a sweet liquid excreted by aphids). However, in their larval stage (when they resemble miniature brown and white alligators) they are referred to as “aphid lions” due to their voracious appetite for aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
Lacewing eggs are as distinctive as the larval and adult stages. Each is perched on the tip of a hairlike stalk that is about ½-inch long. Entomologists believe this helps reduce cannibalism of the eggs by sibling larvae.
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There is a group of 1,500-plus beetles in North America known as “leaf beetles.” They all have an expanded and two-lobed/heart-shaped section of their leg just above the claws. These lobes bear specially modified hairs which help these plant-eating beetles walk on plant stems and smooth leaves. The majority of leaf beetles are specialists, feeding only on a single species of plant or groups of closely related plants. Many leaf beetles are considered pests, including the Colorado Potato Beetle, Spotted Cucumber Beetle, Striped Cucumber Beetle, Spotted Asparagus Beetle and Northern Corn Rootworm Beetle.
One of the most striking leaf beetles, and one that is not a “pest” is the Dogbane Beetle (Chrysochus auratus), so called because its diet is restricted to the leaves of Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium). Its distinctive iridescent green, copper, green and blue body is hard to miss. (Photo: Dogbane beetle on Dogbane)