The azalea lace bug can cause significant damage to the leaves of azalea bushes. Noticing them is an important step so treatment can be administered quickly. If this pest isn't taken care of early in the season, extensive damage to foliage can occur. By learning the characteristics of an azalea lace bug infestation, and knowing proper treatments, you can cure your azalea and prevent future lace bug outbreaks. These bugs actually pierce cells and remove the contents, which will display the signs of infestation.
The first signs of the azalea leaf bug infestation are similar to those of other unwanted pests. Symptoms start on the underneath of the leaves, but unless you check them regularly, you won't notice until they've progressed to the upper part of the foliage.
First signs are small bleached spots that start off as a color significantly lighter than the leaf, then go to a yellow shade. With extensive damage, leaves may turn completely brown and die, falling from the limbs. Once the leaf is lifted and you look underneath, infestation will be obvious. Unless you spot one of the actual bugs, you'll likely see egg pouches underneath the newer leaves, and spots along where the middle vein meets with the other periphery veins. A dark adhesive is used to bond the eggs to the leaf, so you will see the pouches as a brown-white.
Once nymphs have hatched, they quickly turn black and look very spiky if observed closely enough. Sometimes you will see the actual adults. These are called lace bugs because their wing patterns make it look as though they're made of lace. Adults are a cream color and grow to be about an eighth of an inch long, with wings that are partially transparent and extend the length of their bodies. Sometimes you will catch one of them under leaves when you take a look.
Treatment of Azalea Lace Bugs
To avoid treatment, taking proper care of your azalea can make all the difference. Many infestations can be avoided by keeping your plant strong and healthy. Keep your azalea watered and properly fertilized. Regularly take leaf samples and look at the top and underside of leaves with a magnifying glass.
If you find that you still have lace bugs, a light infestation can be cured by spraying hard jets of water on the underside of the leaves. This will dislodge nymphs, eggs and brush off adults. If you have a more advanced problem with lace bugs, there are some chemical control options.
If more than 20% of leaves are damaged, chemical use is advised. Systemic insecticides are suggested for their fast-acting properties. Sevin is a widely known insecticide for treatment of lace bugs, as is Bayer Advanced and Spectricide for rose and flower insects. A few insecticides for commercial use include Sevin SL, Organicide and Astro. Many of these have formulas meant to spray directly onto foliage or work into soil.