Facts, Identification & Control
Adult lace bugs are very small, only about 1/8 inch long and 1/16 inch wide. Their body shape is flat, either black or brown with wings that have a lace-like appearance extending all the way up to the rear part of their head. The appearance of the wings is what gives this group of insects their common name. The lace bug’s nymph stage does not have the lacey wings. Eggs are very small and usually laid on the underside of the host plant’s leaves. More than 150 species of lace bugs have been identified in North America.
Behavior, Diet, Habit
Lace bugs are plant feeders that tend to feed only on one or a few preferred types of host plants. While most lace bugs are not important pests, some are serious pests of ornamental trees and shrubs. Lace bugs infest and damage both evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs. One problem associated with lace bug infestations is they usually go unnoticed until the plants show signs of serious damage. Lace bug adults and nymphs both feed on plants. They use their mouthparts to poke holes into the plant and then suck out the plant’s juices, all the time feeding from the unnoticed underside of the plant’s leaves. Although feeding on the leaf’s bottom, the damage signs are more obvious on the top surface of the leaf.
While not an immediate threat to the host plant’s survival, extended and continuous feeding by a large lace bug population will affect the overall health of the plant. Lace bug feeding decreases the plant’s cosmetic appearance; interferes with the plant’s capability to remain vigorous and healthy; and predisposes the plant to attack by other insects and plant diseases.
If lace bugs become a problem on your trees or shrubs, the best advice is to contact your pest management professional who can positively identify the pest and provide recommendations and advice for how best to deal with the problem.
Some effective, proactive measures that the homeowner can follow are:
- Select and plant tree or shrub species or hybrids that are lace bug resistant.
- Plant shrubs in the least stressful locations. For example, azaleas planted in hot, full sun conditions experience more damage from azalea lace bugs than those planted in partial shade conditions.
- Maintain the health and vigor of trees and shrubs, keeping them well supplied with nutrients and water.
- Do not use insecticides unless your pest management professional either recommends it or does the applications. In lieu of spraying chemicals, use a high velocity stream of water from your garden hose to knock off the lace bugs from your plants. The best time to do this is early spring when the lace bugs are in the nymph stage.
- Continue to frequently inspect plants to determine whether lace bugs have infested or reinvested your trees or shrubs. If you prefer, contact your pest management professional and request a routine, scheduled inspection for lace bugs and other pest insects around your home.
- Do not use lace bug host plant leaves as mulch since the dropped leaves may contain lace bug adults or eggs.