NC State Extension Publications

Azalea Lace Bug

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  • Adult with lacey wings, 1/8"
  • Feed from underside of leaves
  • Upper leaf surface white stippling to splotchy
  • Underside leaf surface with black fly-speck-like fecal spots
  • Adults and spiny nymphs on underside of leaf
  • Overwinters as egg within leaf at leaf vein
  • Eggs hatch begins early Spring

*Reduce stress of plant

*Spray underside of leaves with malathion, pyrethroid or use imidacloprid systemic

Deciduous azaleas are less susceptible to severe lace bug damage.

Alternative plant suggestions- abelia, barberry, loropetalum, nandina & others.

Azalea lace bug

Azalea lace bugs usually feed on the lower leaf surface.

azalea lace bug adults

Some azalea lace bug adults can survive the winter.

lace bug damage

Azaleas can survive extensive lace bug damage (but they look awful).

Southern Red Mite

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  • Discoloration noted during Summer or Winter
  • Flattened oval eggs or clear egg shells present in Summer and Winter with center thread
  • Mites almost black body with pale yellow-brown legs
  • Eggs laid underside of leaves
  • Use 10X hand lens to check

*Horticultural oil, Floramite, Hexygon, sprayed in cool season while mites active. Follow-up sprays may be required with oil.

southern red mite

Southern red mites are usually active in the cooler months.

Southern red mites survive very hot and very cold weather as egg

Southern red mites survive very hot and very cold weather as eggs.

Azalea Caterpillar

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  • Defoliation or chewed leaves with remaining veins. Feed in groups when small.
  • Caterpillar 0.5-1.5 inches, reddish to brown-black with yellow to orange stripes, red head
  • Caterpillars with "U" posture when disturbed
  • Most damage August-September

* Knock caterpillar groups to ground and crush *Carbaryl, acephate or cyfluthrin pesticides.

Azalea caterpillars are sometimes called Labor Day worms

Azalea caterpillars are sometimes called Labor Day worms because they are conspicuous in late summer.

Azalea Bark Scale

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  • Felted or waxy thread egg sac cover scale
  • Black sooty-mold fungus often a problem
  • Females found on crotches and twigs
  • Plants chlorotic and "unthrifty"
  • Dieback may occur
  • Eggs laid in April, crawlers hatch late spring
  • Overwinter as nymphs feeding on bark

* Horticultural oil during late-spring crawler stage or Fall nymph stage. Repeat treatment 14 days later.

azalea bark scale

Azalea bark scale insects produce a white, felted covering for their eggs.

Azalea Whitefly

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  • Waxy-white moth-like adults 1-2mm
  • Pupal case oval, flat, orange-yellow
  • Black sooty-mold fungus often present
  • "Clouds" of whiteflies may launch when disturbed
  • Overwinter as nymphs on leaves; adults emerge early spring

*Wash away with water hose
*Ignore in low numbers
*Kontos or imidacloprid

azalea whitefly

Azalea whiteflies are tiny, white, moth-shaped insects.

Immature azalea whiteflies are plagued by parasites.

Immature azalea whiteflies are plagued by parasites.

  • Small, soft-bodied insects
  • Often found at growing tips of plant
  • Explosive reproductive capacity
  • Long antennae and small "horns" at rear

*Wash away with water hose
*Hort oil, insecticidal soap or many other chemicals are effective

Azalea Stem Borer

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  • Slender long horned beetles
  • Slender yellow, legless grub found inside stem
  • Infested twigs wilt and die or break off
  • Adults emerge May-June
  • Eggs inserted in bark between two rows of holes 1/2 inch apart. Expelled frass sometimes evident.
  • Larvae bore down into roots for winter

*Protective bole and base sprays in spring with Astro or Onyx.
* Astro or Onyx foliar sprays in early spring for foliage feeding damage

Female azalea stem borers partially girdle stems

Female azalea stem borers partially girdle stems and lay eggs under the bark.

Azalea stem borer grubs tunnel downward,

Azalea stem borer grubs tunnel downward, killing the stem.

Peony Scale

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  • Uncommon, armored grayish-brown scale 2.5mm, long oystershell-like
  • Somewhat burrows below bark
  • Stems may die back
  • One generation; crawlers present in May

* Horticultural oil during crawler stages with follow up at 14 days

Peony scales seem to burrow

Peony scales seem to burrow under the outermost layer of bark.

Female peony scale

Female peony scales spend their whole lives under their armor (test).

Azalea Leafminer

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  • Yellow, leaf-mining caterpillar, 10-13mm
  • Brown blisters on leaf surface when larva small
  • Larger larvae emerge to roll leaf tip. Leaves turn yellow, then drop
  • Not commonly a problem outdoors. Worst on greenhouse cuttings.

*Orthene, Conserve, Azadirachtin helpful control. Timing important

Azalea leafminer

Azalea leafminers are small, slender caterpillars.

Azalea leafminers first mine

Azalea leafminers first mine and then fold over the leaf tip.

Moths of the azalea leafminer

Moths of the azalea leafminer are tiny and slender.

Azalea Plant Bug

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  • Beneficial predator of azalea lace bug, red color as a nymph
  • Has been used in releases. Insecticidal soaps are preferred treatment for other pests when used in the presence of this beneficial
  • Unfortunately, azalea plant bugs also bite people
Azalea plant bug

Azalea plant bugs are small and have dark wings.

Azalea plant bug nymph

Azalea plant bug nymphs are beautiful red insects with white antennae and feet.

Voles are not arthropods, but they enjoy the same habitat as azaleas and can be a problem destroying stems and roots below ground. Control is sometimes desired.

Other Resources

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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension Center


Professor and Extension Specialist
Entomology and Plant Pathology
Extension Specialist (Home Ornamentals/Turf), retired
Entomology and Plant Pathology

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: May 16, 2018
Revised: Aug. 29, 2019

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