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Be on the lookout for a pest that damages azaleas this spring


Azalea lace bug becoming more prevalent

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Azalea lace bugs can do damage to azaleas, rhododendrons and other plants. Watch out for them in your garden this spring.Gardeners should be on the lookout this spring for a relatively new pest in Oregon that damages azaleas and rhododendrons, according to experts with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

The azalea lace bug was first confirmed in Oregon in 2009 by OSU researchers after it was found in Washington in 2008.

The pest, known as Stephanitis pyrioides, can survive the winter and breed multiple generations each year, making it particularly worrisome.

It becomes active in mid- to late May and early June, when it starts laying eggs. So, starting in mid-May, gardeners should keep an eye out for the eggs, which are partially embedded in the tissue underneath leaves.

With its piercing-sucking mouthparts, the bug feeds on plants such as rhododendron, azalea and pieris. Adult and immature bugs eat the leaves, leaving a yellow dot-like pattern on the surface and black fecal spots underneath. Large populations can cause azalea leaves to turn white. On rhododendrons, severe damage may look like iron chlorosis with yellow leaves and green veins. Heavy feeding can kill plants. Monitoring for the pest, and dealing with it early in the season, is a gardener’s best defense, she said.

Natural predators such as tree crickets, earwigs, green lacewings, minute pirate bugs and spiders kill and eat azalea lace bugs. These “good bugs” are more abundant in areas with a variety of trees, shrubs and understory plants.

A fact sheet for gardeners with information on how to control the pest and what varieties of azaleas resist it is available online at bit.ly/13yejjO.