Take lacewings. This tiny, but mighty beneficial insect is one of the best things that can happen to anyone's backyard or garden.
Lacewings are part of the Chrysopidae family. They're beautiful creatures with translucent, lime-green wings, golden eyes, and green bodies. They fly at dusk or during the night and are drawn to light, which makes them easy to see. They lay tiny, oblong eggs that are attached by silken stalks to a plant's tissue, and their metamorphosis is remarkable. During the larval stage, they look like tiny, pale alligators with dark brown markings.
Lacewings are fierce predators and use their prominent mandibles to attack their prey. Thankfully for us, they're not picky eaters: Their diet consists of aphids, mealybugs, mites, whiteflies, and even small caterpillars and leafhoppers.
Studying beneficial insects, pests we need to deal with (in an eco-friendly way) and a vast array of diseases, fungi, and microorganisms is what being a Master Gardener is all about. Over the past 12 years, I have learned so much and gotten to interact with thousands of first-time gardeners and seasoned pros throughout the Bay Area. I've been thrilled to show people how to grow their own food, practice sustainable gardening methods, care for trees, interact with nature, and become happier, healthier human beings. That's what all Master Gardeners do — and we are here for you year-round.
It has been a complete honor to write this column for you. This is the last edition, but you'll find Master Gardeners in every community eager to help and answer questions at any time of year. Look for us at workshops, library talks and community events, online, and at the other end of your phone line. You can reach the Santa Clara County Master Gardener Help Desk at 408-282-3105 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays. And you'll find links to Help Desks and email contacts for every other California county at Find a UC Master Gardener Program.
As we enter a new year, I have one resolution to share: Please grow more food than you can eat and share it with your neighbors – I believe we are growing community one plant at a time.
By UC Master Gardener Rebecca Jepsen
This article first appeared in the December 17, 2019 issue of the San Jose Mercury News.