Lace Bugs: a Potential Problem on Azaleas, Lantana, Sycamores and Other Plants

— Written By Thomas Glasgow and last updated by Jami Hooper
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Lace bugs are among our most common insect pests, and in the Craven County area are most likely to be seen on azaleas, lantana, and sycamores. In fact, there’s a separate lace bug species for each of these three plant genera. Suspect lantana lace bug if your lantana leaves exhibit a splotchy upper leaf surface, general discoloration, curling and browning of the leaf margins or other irregularities with the foliage. The lower leaf surface is where you should look for the insects. They can be seen without magnification, but a hand lens is probably needed to confirm that the bugs are in fact lace bugs.
Control is complicated with lantana because once warmer weather arrives, these plants never seem to stop flowering. And they attract a lot of pollinators. Insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils provide control of the nymphs and adults while reducing the threat to visiting pollinators. According to Jim Baker, Professor Emeritus with NC State University, spring generations do the most damage, so be sure to monitor the new foliage in May and June.
A totally non-chemical approach is to cut heavily infested lantana to the ground and remove the foliage and stems from the site. Your lantana would likely recover quite well from one or even two of these renovation cuts, and this would also give you less surface area to spray as the plants regrow.
Lantana lace bug nymph

Lantana lace bug nymph, Craven County, 6/9/20. According to Baker, nymphs develop through five stages for 12 to 18 days before molting into adult bugs.

Lantana lace bug

Lantana lace bug adult, Craven County, 6/9/20. Adults are about 1/8″ in length.