Lace Bug Control

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picture of azalea lace bug

Most homeowners are familiar with the Azalea lace bug, a tiny, clear winged insect that feeds by sucking on the underside of azalea leaves. This feeding causes small bleached spots to form on the top surface of the leaf and is referred to as stippling. This feeding usually leads to unproductive leaves, and occasional leaf drop.

However, many homeowners may have never seen the Lantana lace bug, which is an occasional pest that migrates into NC annually.picture of a lantana lace bug

This insect creates similar damage to Lantana foliage as compared to azalea lace bugs, but they also feed on buds and flowers. picture of damage from lantana lace bugFeeding can become severe and cause leaf drop. Adult insects are larger than azalea lace bugs and slightly more noticeable. Both azalea and lantana lace bugs leave behind a characteristic varnish (excrement) that can be found on both sides of the leaf. This varnish, coupled with leaf stippling is a good indication of lace bug activity. Immature nymphal stages of lantana lace bugs can be found on the underside of leaves, often in groups. Visit this NC State Extension Plant Disease and Insect Clinic note for more information on Lantana lace bugs: Lantana Lace Bug.

picture of a leaf with damage from a lace bug

Control for both insects is very similar, but proper site placement might help azaleas. Azaleas exposed to full sunlight may have more insect pressure compared to those plants with more shade. Variety selection may provide some tolerance to these insects, but most common landscape varieties have the potential for lace bugs. If damage is less severe and control is desired, less toxic insecticides like insecticidal soap and horticultural oil may provide some suppression. However, good coverage is required with these products, and repeat applications will be needed to control insects that have not hatched or have escaped treatment.

A slightly more effective control strategy for severely infested plants is to make two applications. One application with a contact insecticide like acephate (Orthene) or Bifenthrin (Ortho Bug B Gone) for immediate knock down, and then follow up with a systemic product like imidacloprid (Bayer 12 Month Tree and Shrub Care) that is applied to the roots of the plant for long term control. When applying any insecticide product, always READ AND FOLLOW THE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Applications made that are inconsistent with the label often result in less than desirable control. It is also important to pay attention to when the application is made and when flowers are present. Lantana attracts many pollinating insects, so insecticide applications should be made early in the morning or late in the evening to help avoid these pollinators. Systemic products offer a better option for flowering plants, as less insecticide comes into direct contact with off-target species.

For more information related to Lace bug control and other landscape pests, please contact Daniel Simpson at 252-745-4121 or daniel_simpson@ncsu.edu.

Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included in this article as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services does not imply endorsement by North Carolina State University nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical.