Azalea (Rhododendron)azalea

Leaf feeders

Azalea caterpillar
Chris Evans, University of Illinois,
Azalea caterpillars may occasionally cause significant leaf loss in August and September. These hairy caterpillars have 7 light stripes along the body; the head and legs are red.


Sap feeders

Azalea lace bug adult
image: Pest and Diseases Image Library,

Azalea lace bugs are 1/8 to 3/16 inches long sap-feeding insects with clear, ornate, lacy wings; nymphs are spiny and wingless. Both stages live on the lower surface of leaves. As they feed, they leave tiny yellow to white spots on leaves and dark, varnish-like waste spots on the under sides.

These lace bugs spend the winter as eggs in leaves. The eggs hatch in early spring and the nymphs begin to feed on plant sap. There are several generations each season. Initially, numbers are so small that feeding symptoms are not noticed until the population peaks in late summer. When abundant, feeding can make plants unsightly and may cause premature leaf drop.

Azalea mealybug
image: United States National Collection of Scale Insects Photographs,
USDA Agricultural Research Service,
Azalea mealybugs produce cottony white sacs on twigs and in crotches of limbs. They produce large volumes of liquid waste that drops on lower limbs and branches. Black sooty mold will grow on these deposits.

Southern red mite
image: Tracy Wootten, University of Delaware,
Southern red mites are tiny (1/50 inch) arthropods with a dark red or brown. They live on the underside of leaves and use needle-like mouthparts to remove the contents of individual cells. This produces tiny white to yellow spots on leaves, sometimes called flecking or bronzing. Infestations are usually most serious during cool periods of spring and fall.

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