Aphid-eating Insects in Action!

Aphid-eating Insects in Action!


Do you have lots of aphids in your garden? If you do look very closely and you may also find beneficial insects feeding on them. Lady beetles are voracious aphid feeders. Most people recognize adult lady beetles but lady beetle larvae, which are unfamiliar to many people also stalk and eat aphids. These tiny black lady beetles just hatched out of their eggs. They’ll soon be off to hunt aphids. Another common a bit predator is the green lacewing. Adults have lacy green wings and golden eyes. They lay eggs on long stalks either singly or in clusters. Lacewing larvae are the primary predatory stage. Larvae are alligator-like insects that grab aphids with their pincer-like mandibles and suck out the aphid’s contents. In addition to aphids lacewings feed on many other small, soft-bodied insects such as scales, caterpillars, and psyllids. Syrphid flies, sometimes called flower flies or hover flies, feed on pollen and nectar. However syrphid fly larvae feed almost entirely on aphids. These pale, legless, caterpillar like maggots are often found wandering in aphid colonies. Seizing aphids and scarfing them up as they go. Many other predators also feed on aphids. Soldier beetles are very common aphid predators on flowering plants. Damsel bugs feed on aphids as well as many other small to medium-sized insects. Predaceous midges are very small maggots similar to syrphids that can often be found feeding on aphids. In addition to these aphid predators or hunters, many tiny wasps kill and parasitize aphids by laying their eggs inside the aphids body. Eggs hatch into wasp larvae that feed within the aphid and rapidly kill it. The dead aphid develops a beige or black crust called a mummy, and the wasp pupates within, cutting a circular hole when it is ready to emerge as an adult wasp. Parasitic wasps and aphid predators frequently keep aphid populations at low levels. Protect these natural enemies by avoiding sprays and insecticides that will kill them. See the UC IPM website for more information on aphids and natural enemies.

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