Pest Alert – Azalea Lace Bug

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The Azalea Lacebug is a pest that southern gardeners face nearly every year. As rhododendrons and azaleas begin to bloom, the insect begins its lifecycle. By the end of the summer, gardeners may find their azalea leaves covered with yellow speckles and their plants stressed. The azalea suffers and flowering can be reduced.

Azalea Lace Bug

Lacebugs suck juices from the underside of the leaves using a hypodermic needle-like mouthpart causing leaves to turn bronze.

Azalea Lacebugs infest most Rhododendron species but do not always cause serious effects. Damage is serious when it appears as yellow spotting on leaves. Leaf damage is caused by the insect feeding on the underside of leaves with its sucking mouthparts. Severe infestations can cause leaves to turn brown and impact overall plant health.

The adults are tiny and dark in color. Using a magnifying glass, you can see the insects have lacy wings. White football shaped eggs and dark fecal spots are deposited on the underside of leaves.

Azalea lacebugs over-winter primarily as eggs on the underside of leaves. Eggs mature in response to temperature and in Western NC typically begin to hatch in early April. There are usually 3 to 4 generations per year and during the growing season the insect progresses from egg to adult in about 30 days.

Gardeners should start looking for the insects on the bottom of azalea leaves in May. Try to give the natural enemies of the lacebug such as Ladybugs a chance to get them under control. If you have a serious infestation, a single spray will control them. Chemical controls can be found in the NCSU Agricultural Chemical Manual:  https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/north-carolina-agricultural-chemicals-manual . If you have any questions about azalea culture or about azalea lacebug control, please contact your Henderson County Cooperative Extension Office at (828) 697-4891.

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