Many gardeners think ‘ladybugs’ when they want to go after plant pests. When I have a chance, I try to pitch the benefits of green lacewing instead. Especially from late spring through early fall, lacewing eggs on cards are, in my experience, more reliable and versatile.
Convergent lady beetles (ladybugs) that are so popular prefer an aphid diet and migrate over large distances. They aren’t as interested as lacewing larvae are in a mixed diet that can include small caterpillars, scale crawlers, psyllids, mealybug, whitefly, in fact, just about any soft-bodied insect, mite or egg they run into.
A big feature of lacewing eggs is that they can develop in transit without harm. Buying ladybugs through the mail can be disappointing because they don’t travel very well. Most of the year when there are only stored ladybugs we can’t even guarantee that they will all be alive if they travel more than one day. Sometimes they make it, sometimes not. Hence, we recommend overnight service for ladybugs and resulting shipping costs can be extreme.
Lacewing eggs, on the other hand, are safe in transit while they are incubating. If they are traveling for three days, time enough to get those hungry larvae out on the prowl. A card of 1,000 lacewing eggs is a good amount for a yard with a few rosebushes and trees and some beds of flowers and vegetables. We encourage gardeners to put out lacewing two or three times during the warm season. They are more likely to colonize a yard that has flowers blooming throughout the season, providing nectar for the adult lacewing.
Because lacewing eggs can be shipped by ground or 3-day service, they can be combined with heavier items to economize on freight charges. A mini lacewing card costing $14.00 can be combined with a quart of Gourmet Liquid Ant Bait ($13.50) to meet Rincon-Vitova’s $25 minimum order. If you don’t have any dispensers for the ant bait and don’t want to bother with homemade ones, or if the cost of the AntPro ($26.00) is a barrier, add a pair of Ants-No-More dispensers for $7.50.
If ants aren’t going to be converging on your lacewing cards and cleaning the eggs off of them, then you can go to the next level with a combination with a mini lacewing card and a tray of 250 Aphidoletes for long-term aphid control. If caterpillars are a greater problem than aphids, add the mini-Trichogramma card for $16.00, understanding that they only attack the eggs laid by moths before they hatch into caterpillars. If powdery mildew plagues your garden later in summer, get a quart of Defensor to meet the minimum order with a final installment of lacewing eggs. Beneficial habitat seed mixes and quarts of orange oil or neem oil are other items to acquire with a shipment of lacewing eggs to build a basic toolkit for natural pest control.