Azalea Lace Bug: All You Need to Know in One Handy Guide

Azalea lace bugs are tiny, destructive pests that target azaleas, causing damage to the leaves and affecting the overall health of the plant. Known for their unique and intricate wing patterns, these insects are about 1/8 inch long and often go unnoticed by gardeners until significant damage has occurred.

Lace bugs damage azaleas by using their piercing-sucking mouthparts to feed on the plant’s foliage during both nymph and adult life stages. This results in a grayish cast on the azalea’s leaves, which, if left untreated, can weaken the plant considerably.

Prevention and management of azalea lace bugs can be achieved through a combination of methods, such as maintaining healthy, well-watered plants and employing targeted insecticides. By understanding the life cycle and habits of these pests, you can protect your azaleas and keep them looking vibrant and beautiful.

Identifying Azalea Lace Bugs

Physical Characteristics

Azalea lace bugs are small insects that belong to the family Tingidae. They have distinctive features that make them easily recognizable:

  • Lace-like wings
  • Transparent wings with dark markings
  • Size: about 1/8 inch long

These bugs are usually found feeding on the underside of azalea leaves, causing damage to the foliage. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts, which they use to feed during both nymph and adult life stages.

Adults vs Nymphs

The Azalea lace bug life cycle consists of two main phases: adult and nymph. Here are some key differences between the two:

Adults

  • Highly sculptured wings with a lacy appearance
  • Dark markings on the back and wings

Nymphs

  • Lacks the lace-like wings of adults
  • Lighter and more transparent appearance

While both adults and nymphs cause damage to azalea foliage, early detection and management can help prevent significant harm to the plants. For more information on azalea lace bugs and their impact on azaleas, visit this Home & Garden Information Center page.

Life Cycle and Ecology

Generations Per Year

The azalea lace bug, Stephanitis pyrioides, is a common insect pest affecting azaleas in landscapes. Their life cycle consists of several stages, including eggs, nymphs, and adults. Typically, they have 2-3 generations per year.

  • First Generation: Early spring to early summer
  • Second Generation: Mid-summer
  • Third Generation: Late summer to early fall (in some areas)

Overwintering

Overwintering is the process of surviving harsh winter conditions. Azalea lace bugs usually spend the winter in the egg stage inside the azalea’s leaves. This protects them from cold temperatures and allows them to reemerge once the weather warms up.

To summarize:

  • Egg Stage: Azalea lace bugs overwinter as eggs within azalea leaves
  • Nymph Stage: Nymphs feed on azalea foliage and gradually develop into adults
  • Adult Stage: Adults mate and lay eggs, starting the cycle again in the next generation

Pros and Cons of Overwintering

Pros

  • Protection from extreme cold temperatures
  • Safe location inside azalea leaves away from predators

Cons

  • Limited food resources during winter
  • Dependency on host plant for survival

Damage and Symptoms

Visual Signs on Leaves

Azalea lace bugs, Stephanitis pyrioides, cause distinct damage to azalea and rhododendron leaves. These tiny insects feed on the leaf tissue with their piercing-sucking mouthparts, leading to:

  • Leaf stippling: Small white and yellow dots on the upper surface of leaves
  • Bronzing: A grayish or silvery cast on the foliage due to damage on the lower leaf surface

The lace bug damage is most noticeable on the underside of leaves, near the midrib and veins. This is where the bugs lay their eggs and feed on the plant tissue.

Effect on Plant Health

Azalea lace bugs can have a significant impact on the health of azalea and rhododendron plants, especially on deciduous varieties. The damage caused by their feeding can lead to:

  • Reduced photosynthesis: The stippling and bronzing of leaves hampers the plant’s ability to produce energy
  • Poor aesthetic appearance: Damaged plants lose their vibrant foliage and may become less attractive in a landscape

It is important to identify and manage lace bug infestations promptly to maintain the health and appearance of your plants.

Preventing and Managing Infestations

Natural Predators and Biological Control

Azalea lace bugs can be effectively controlled by releasing beneficial insects which act as their natural predators. Some common predators include:

  • Ladybugs (Coccinellidae): Efficient predators of lace bug nymphs.
  • Parasitic wasps (Neuroptera): These wasps prefer lace bug eggs.
  • Pirate bugs (Anthocoridae): Predators of lace bug nymphs and adults.
  • Green lacewing larvae: A voracious predator of lace bugs, which can be purchased through Arbico Organics.

By promoting the presence of natural predators in your landscape, you can reduce infestations without the need for chemical pesticides.

Cultural Practices

To manage azalea lace bug infestations, follow these best practices:

  • Maintain a healthy plant by planting azaleas in part shade and providing proper nutrition.
  • Keep an eye on new growth and monitor for any signs of lace bugs.
  • In North Carolina, the azalea lace bug goes through multiple generations, so regular monitoring is essential.

A healthy plant will be less susceptible to infestations and more resistant to damage.

Insecticidal Approaches

When natural predators and cultural practices aren’t enough, insecticides can be used. Some options include:

  • Insecticidal soap: A safer, non-toxic option for managing infestations.
  • Horticultural oil: An effective control method, particularly during the egg stage.
  • Pesticides (e.g., imidacloprid, pyrethroid): Use with caution, as they may harm natural predators and beneficial insects.

Organic and Chemical Solutions

When choosing an insecticide or an organic solution, consider the following:

Product Pros Cons
Neem oil (organic) Safe for beneficial insects, controls spider mites Needs frequent application, limited efficacy
Imidacloprid (chemical) Systemic action, effective control against lace bugs Might harm natural predators

When possible, opt for organic control methods like neem oil in order to preserve the natural predators of lace bugs. The key to successful lace bug management is a combination of proper cultural practices, natural predators, and the judicious use of insecticides where needed.

Follow these guidelines to effectively prevent and manage azalea lace bug infestations while keeping a healthy and vibrant landscape.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Chrysanthemum Lace Bugs

 

Subject: Bug on sunflowers
Location: Southern Nevada
May 19, 2013 10:19 pm
I have a bunch of these bugs showing up on my sunflowers in my garden. I live in Boulder City Nevada, which sits right on the border of Arizona and Nevada, about 30 miles south of Las Vegas. They appeared about a week ago, so the middle of May. I just want to know if they are harmful, helpful or neutral to my garden.
Signature: Rich

Chrysanthemum Lace Bugs
Chrysanthemum Lace Bugs

Hi Rich,
Your sunflower has Lace Bugs in the family Tingidae.  Lace Bugs are True Bugs and they do not bite nor chew leaves, but rather they use their piercing and sucking mouthparts to draw nourishment from the plant fluids.  Normally we don’t attempt to identify Lace Bugs to the species level, and your photo is lacking in the type of essential detail for such an identification, however, since you provided a food plant, we gave it a shot and we believe you have Chrysanthemum Lace Bugs,
Corythucha marmorata, which according to BugGuide commenter L. T. Miller are:  “Common in many composite flowers.”  According to the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) website:  “Chrysanthemum lace bugs feed on asters, sunflowers, and goldenrods, injuring the plant by their piercing and sucking. The excrement is strategically placed along the vein and secures the eggs to the leaf.  They prefer the underside of the leaf but will also colonize the upper side when the population is high. Nymphs are small and shiny brown, and they suck sap. Young nymphs congregate on the underside of the leaves. In dry weather, high populations can cause particularly severe damage.  Hover-fly larvae, lady beetles, and lace-wing larvae will prey on these garden pests. Daily water sprays can be highly effective at reducing the population. U of I Extension suggests treating plants with horticulture oil, insecticidal soap, neem oil, or imidacloprid.” 

Letter 2 – Azalea Lace Bug

 

Subject: Whats this bug?
Location: Kennebunk, ME
August 10, 2012 10:26 am
Hello,
I am trying to help a friend identify this flying insect. Any ideas? Thanks
Signature: Waylon Holbrook

Azalea Lace Bug

Hi Waylon,
This is a Lace Bug, and we believe it matches this photo of an Azalea Lace Bug from Bugguide.  The species is native to east Asia.

Letter 3 – Chrysanthemum Lace Bug

 

Subject: WAFFLE BUG
Location: Courtice, Ontario Canada
September 9, 2016 5:40 pm
I found this unusual bug on a leaf near the golden rod plants.
Really different than anything I’ve seen before. It was eating the leaf. there were light tan colored ones and all white ones. they look like waffles. Hope you have an idea what they are.
Signature: Terri Martin

Chrysanthemum Lace Bug
Chrysanthemum Lace Bug

Dear Terri,
Thanks to providing us with the host plant Goldenrod, we feel quite confident your Lace Bug is a Chrysanthemum Lace Bug,
Corythucha marmorata, because according to BugGuide:  “hosts: several species of Asteraceae; reported from Solidago, Aster, Ambrosia, Helianthus, Rudbeckia, Echinops.”  Solidago is the genus for Goldenrod.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Chrysanthemum Lace Bugs

 

Subject: Bug on sunflowers
Location: Southern Nevada
May 19, 2013 10:19 pm
I have a bunch of these bugs showing up on my sunflowers in my garden. I live in Boulder City Nevada, which sits right on the border of Arizona and Nevada, about 30 miles south of Las Vegas. They appeared about a week ago, so the middle of May. I just want to know if they are harmful, helpful or neutral to my garden.
Signature: Rich

Chrysanthemum Lace Bugs
Chrysanthemum Lace Bugs

Hi Rich,
Your sunflower has Lace Bugs in the family Tingidae.  Lace Bugs are True Bugs and they do not bite nor chew leaves, but rather they use their piercing and sucking mouthparts to draw nourishment from the plant fluids.  Normally we don’t attempt to identify Lace Bugs to the species level, and your photo is lacking in the type of essential detail for such an identification, however, since you provided a food plant, we gave it a shot and we believe you have Chrysanthemum Lace Bugs,
Corythucha marmorata, which according to BugGuide commenter L. T. Miller are:  “Common in many composite flowers.”  According to the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) website:  “Chrysanthemum lace bugs feed on asters, sunflowers, and goldenrods, injuring the plant by their piercing and sucking. The excrement is strategically placed along the vein and secures the eggs to the leaf.  They prefer the underside of the leaf but will also colonize the upper side when the population is high. Nymphs are small and shiny brown, and they suck sap. Young nymphs congregate on the underside of the leaves. In dry weather, high populations can cause particularly severe damage.  Hover-fly larvae, lady beetles, and lace-wing larvae will prey on these garden pests. Daily water sprays can be highly effective at reducing the population. U of I Extension suggests treating plants with horticulture oil, insecticidal soap, neem oil, or imidacloprid.” 

Letter 2 – Azalea Lace Bug

 

Subject: Whats this bug?
Location: Kennebunk, ME
August 10, 2012 10:26 am
Hello,
I am trying to help a friend identify this flying insect. Any ideas? Thanks
Signature: Waylon Holbrook

Azalea Lace Bug

Hi Waylon,
This is a Lace Bug, and we believe it matches this photo of an Azalea Lace Bug from Bugguide.  The species is native to east Asia.

Letter 3 – Chrysanthemum Lace Bug

 

Subject: WAFFLE BUG
Location: Courtice, Ontario Canada
September 9, 2016 5:40 pm
I found this unusual bug on a leaf near the golden rod plants.
Really different than anything I’ve seen before. It was eating the leaf. there were light tan colored ones and all white ones. they look like waffles. Hope you have an idea what they are.
Signature: Terri Martin

Chrysanthemum Lace Bug
Chrysanthemum Lace Bug

Dear Terri,
Thanks to providing us with the host plant Goldenrod, we feel quite confident your Lace Bug is a Chrysanthemum Lace Bug,
Corythucha marmorata, because according to BugGuide:  “hosts: several species of Asteraceae; reported from Solidago, Aster, Ambrosia, Helianthus, Rudbeckia, Echinops.”  Solidago is the genus for Goldenrod.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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