Kitchen Nature: Blueberry host

lacewing egg

Sometimes I gobble blueberries by the cup. Sometimes I drown them in heavy cream and then gobble by the cup. But this morning, I was restrained. I nibbled my blueberries slowly, one at a time, parcelling them out as the summer treats they are.

A lacewing is glad I did.

Because look:
On a blueberry raised halfway to my face, there stood a tiny white eyelash of a stalk, with a tiny white blob at the free end. A lacewing egg.

In a field of blueberries somewhere in America (“Grown in the USA”) a green lacewing flew to this berry and laid her egg. She made the stalk first, so that when the egg hatched, the larva would be marooned on the stalk, held aloft from any siblings who might look either delicious or hungry. Ideally, a hatchling would immediately climb down the stalk and hunt for juicy aphids and other soft-bodied victims.

Will this blueberry egg hatch?

I don’t know if days of refrigeration inside a Trader Joe’s blueberry packet will delay development, kill it altogether, or make any difference at all.

But just in case the egg is viable, I’ve set the berry inside an insect cage. There is no insect cage with ventilation holes small enough to prevent a just-hatched lacewing larva from escaping, but if I check the cage often enough, I’m hoping to catch the hatch in progress, and then immediately add food: an aphid-strewn hackberry leaf. Fresh meat might keep the teensy creature occupied while it fattens too large to run away. We wouldn’t detain it for long: just enough for a few observations, and then we’d let it loose in the garden.  There are always green aphids on the cherry tomatoes; white, wooly aphids on the baby hackberry; and countless orange-sherbet-colored oleander aphids on anything in the milkweed family.

Another name for the larvae of green lacewings is aphid lion. Aphid lions are fierce little predators, and all gardeners should love them. When my son and I raised an egg to adulthood a couple years ago, we witnessed the precise method by which an aphid lion eats an aphid. We felt sorry for the aphids, and that’s saying something. 

Another name is trash bug. And oh, how I love to watch trash bugs old enough to earn a full suit of camouflage. They wear bits of lichen (or whatever might be nearby) or bits of victims on their backs, the better to hide from predators and to sneak up on prey. Here is a quick video of a fully-loaded trash bug on one of our flowerpots

I share this blueberry story to show, again, how “nature” is everywhere. All you have to do is look around. And to forget to wash fruit before you eat it.

2 thoughts on “Kitchen Nature: Blueberry host

  1. I have learned something new from this post and I thank you for it. I have Green Lacewings here in Middle England but have not known their beginnings before. The fact that they use camouflage reminds me of Caddisflies – I don’t even know if you get those in Nashville.

    1. We have caddisflies, too, and they are amazing, aren’t they? I see what you mean: the larvae construct a covering out of material at hand – or at foot!

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