Common Natural Enemies in High Tunnels

Scouting in high tunnels should include both pest species as well as beneficial insects and natural enemies.
Common Natural Enemies in High Tunnels - Articles

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These are common natural enemies in high tunnels we are commonly finding.

Green lacewing adults are green with long antennae and 4 large lacy wings.


Adult green lacewings can be up to 1 inch long. Photo by Frank Peairs, bugwood.org

Each green or white egg is laid on a long white stalk attached to the lower surface of leaves.


Lacewing egg on the lower side of a leaf, note the white stalk. Photo: David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

Larvae are the predatory stage and are known as aphid lions. They are brown and tan in color and have pinchers (mandibles) on their heads. The shape of their bodies has been described as similar to an alligator. Larvae feed on soft-bodied insects including aphids, thrips, mites, whiteflies, leafhoppers and small caterpillars.


Aphid Lions can be up to 1/2 inch long. Photo: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, bugwood.org.

Lady beetles are also commonly known as ladybugs. Larvae have diverse patterns and spines on their soft-bodies.


Lady beetle larvae can get up to ¼ inch long.

Adults vary in size, color and number of spots, but are typically dome-shaped.


Adult Lady Beetles are less than ¼ inch long. Photo: Kansas Department of Agriculture Archive, bugwood.org.

Pupae are immobile and are commonly found on the bottom surface of leaves. Adults and larvae feed on soft-bodied insects including aphids, scales and mites.


Lady Beetle pupae are about ¼ inch long. Photo: Russ Ottens, University of Georgia, bugwood.org.

Several species of parasitoid wasps are natural enemies of aphids. Adult parasitoid wasps have long antennae and legs and a small waist. Parasitoid wasps are very, very tiny to about ½ inch long, depending on species.


Note the constricted wasp and long antenna of this parasitoid wasp. Photo: David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org.

Orius sp. are also commonly known as Minute Pirate Bugs. Adults have black and white triangle markings on their backs.


Adult Minute Pirate Bugs are very small - 2 to 3 mm (1/16 to 3/32 inch) in length. Photo: Phil Sloderbeck, Kansas State University, bugwood.org.

Nymphs are yellow-orange in color. Adults and nymphs prey on soft-bodied insects including thrips, aphids, mites and whiteflies.


Minute Pirate Bug nymph on the lower side of a leaf. Photo: Adam Sisson, Iowa State University, bugwood.org.

Hover flies are also commonly known as syrphids. Adults mimic bees with yellow and black markings on their backs, but they have heads that are fly-like and have two wings while bees have four. True to their name they hover - they'll be suspended in air around a flower then dart a short distance to a new location and hover again.


Adult hover flies are 38 to ½ inch long. Photo: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, bugwood.org.

Larvae are legless maggots with pointed heads. They are a pale green color and semitransparent with internal organs being visible. They also have two narrow whitish long stripes on their bodies. Larvae are the predatory stage and feed on soft-bodied insects including aphids, thrips and caterpillars.


Hover fly larvae are 132 to ½ inch long. Photo: Patrick Porter, Texas Cooperative Extension, bugwood.org.

Articles in this series:

Common Insects Found on Sticky Cards in High Tunnels 

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