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Beneficial Insects for hydroponics part 2

This is part 2 of the following article: Beneficial Insects for Hydroponics, part 1

Lacewings, are green and/or brown with 2 pairs of wings, and a mouth similar to the praying mantis, with large eyes relative to the size their head. They also have long, thin bodies, and look similar to dragonflies, except lacewings will fold their wings along the length of their back when there not flying. Their wings have a shiny lacy look with prominent veins. Adult Lacewings are usually about 1/2 inch to 1 inch in length. They lay pale green oblong shaped eggs on the tips of thread-like stalks attached to plants. Lacewings are attracted to the odor of aphid honeydew (a sugary liquid waste that aphids produce), they also like to lay their eggs near the aphid colonies.

There are two common families of lacewings, green lacewing (family Chrysopidae), and brown lacewings (family Hemerobiidae). They feed on feed on aphids, mites, thrips, soft scale insects, mealy bugs, whiteflies, psyllids, and many other soft bodied insects. As well as small caterpillars, leafhoppers and moth insect eggs. When Lacewing larvae hatch in just a few days they are reddish cream in color, and are a tapered in shape, like tiny 1/8 inch alligators. When the larvae mature, they form a yellow color silken cocoon to pupate and grow their wings.

Assassin Bugs, they are also called Bloodsucking Conenose, Masked Hunter, Black Corsair, Wheel Bug, Spined Assassin Bug, ambush bugs, thread-legged bugs or kissing bugs. They are closely related to plant sucking bugs, but assassin bugs are generalist predators that feed on a variety of insects.  There are more than 160 species of assassin bugs. They generally have a elongated body with grasping fore-legs and a pronounced head. Many species are brownish or blackish, but many species are brightly colored. Even though assassin bugs are beneficial insects, if they are handled carelessly they can inflict a painful bite. Sometimes it can even cause a severe reaction or inflammation in some people.

Depending on the species they can rang in size. Adults can range from about 1/2 inch, to as large as 6 inches. But most species are about 1/2 to 1 inch long. They wait for their pray to happen to pass by, then they attack them. They usually prey on small flying insects like flies, mosquitoes and other soft bodied insects, as well as insect eggs, and larvae. But they can even subdue and kill larger prey like caterpillars and beetles. They hunt for there pray in all sorts of vegetation including trees, bushes, flower beds and even weeds.

Assassin bugs are basically a slow moving insect, and even though the adults are able to fly they are generally poor flyers. The female assassin bugs lay their eggs in tight, upright,  brownish clusters on leaves, and/or in soil regularly. The immature nymphs (larva) resemble adults but are wingless, and develop into the adults through molting. Depending on species they will molt from 4 to 7 times in about two months time. Despite the negative aspects, the assassin bugs beneficial qualities outweighs their negative potential by far, so getting used to these insects will be a benefit to your gardens.

Flower flies, also known as hover flies or syrphid flies, are considered beneficial insects. There are nearly 900 species of flower flies in North America, and the adults are about 1/2 inches long. Flower flies have yellow-and-black stripes or yellow and white stripes, and they look a lot like bees and/or wasps. Because of this, they are commonly mistaken for them, but flower flies can’t sting you. The wasp and bee like appearance is a defense against predators, because true wasps and bees will sting predators, but the flies can’t, so they just avoid them because of how they look. They can be distinguished in two different ways, when looking at the head of the flower flies, they will have the large bulging eyes like regular flies do. Also the flower flies only have two wings, and bees and wasps have four wings.

Their larvae feed on aphids and other pests like scales, thrips and caterpillars. The adults feed on the nectar of flower blossoms, and they are attracted to pollen producing plants. They also pollinate plants like bees do, so they are important as pollinators to your plants as well, especially because they are more active during cold weather than bees are. Although like other flies, they have a relatively short life span that can range from about three to nine weeks. Providing flowers for adults is a good way to attract them, but ensuring there is appropriate egg-laying sites, as well as places where the larvae can live is also a good way to make sure they will stick around and breed year round. The role of the flower flies as an important beneficial insect is mostly under appreciated, but very useful never the less.

Continued: Beneficial Insects part 3

Useful Links
University of Kentucky, Lacewings
Green Lacewing
Cornell University, Lacewings
Beneficial Insects in the Low Desert, Green Lacewings

Assassin Bugs
University of California, Assassin Bugs
Ohio State University, Assassin Bugs
Assassin Bugs and Ambush Bugs
Texas master gardener, Assassin Bugs

Flower Flies
University of Kentucky, Flower Flies
NC Sate University, Hover flies
Texas master gardener, Hover flies
Flower fly

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