It’s seeming like a pattern here in Vancouver, WA. Summer seems not to get started until after July 4th. I remember last year, watching fireworks in my winter jacket. Low 80s are expected tomorrow. Sounds good!
As I type I’m hearing rockets and bombs going off all over the neighborhood this evening. I have mixed feelings about our collective love of fireworks. I have always loved a good fireworks display. The lights, colors, concussion, smell. It all mixes to titillate the senses… well it does for me. But I have come to realize the negative environmental impact associated with fireworks. So it’s a love/hate relationship now.
But that is not why I’m typing tonight. Those of you who know me well, know I don’t have my own garden these days. I’ve been living in rental houses for the past 4 years. I have installed only minimal amounts of flowers and veggies each spring thinking that would be the year we’d find a house to purchase. If I really thought we’d stay a while, I’d plant more stuff. I have sort of done that this spring planting some veggies, annual flowers in the front, and prettied up some containers for both front and back decks. That’s about as much as I want to invest in a temporary situation. I can take all the containers with me, and I just hope a house doesn’t present itself until AFTER my tomatoes are harvested. :-)
So… I was out in the garden, replacing 2 tomato plants that didn’t survive the spring transplant. As I was watering, primping some other things I had going on, I noticed stippling on some rhododendron leaves as I was coiling up the hose. Hmmm… Rhododendron lace bugs. The photo at right shows what the leaves look like from the top side. The undersides have lots of teensy black dots… it’s the bugs’ fecal matter.
So I sprayed the suckers (literally, they are sucking bugs) with a good strong blast of water up through the plant. You have to get the back sides of the leaves. I will check on them in a week (or less) to see if my manual IPM (Integrated Pest Management) measure worked. I may also invest in some lady bugs. I’ve not seen any in this yard in the year I’ve lived here. I’ve actually not seen ANY of the beneficial insect predators here. The damaged leaves will never heal themselves. Eventually, they will be shed as new leaves come on over the next few years. The plant will be ugly, but generally mild infestations don’t kill the plant.
Lace bugs seem to attack their host plants (rhodies and azaleas, kalmia, leucothoe and some other evergreen trees/shrubs) mostly when it’s dry and warm or hot. About now is when we’d begin to see their damage in the PNW. Plants that would generally like being in the shade which are planted in sunny spots instead are much more susceptible to attack from lace bugs. Plants without enough mulch to keep the soil moist and cool are also more often affected. And a garden lacking in beneficial insects is also more susceptible than other gardens. Proper culture is key to avoiding this pest.
I was looking up exactly what I should do to treat this problem, and I came across what appears to be a new web site called IPMopedia. It’s a sister site to one called Toxipedia, and they both appear to be at least somewhat new. I search for IPM info all the time and this is the first time I’ve seen this site. While the info seems really good, there aren’t photos of the pests. At least for beginners, seeing a photo to confirm what you are looking at is vital. So, I’m hoping this site fixes this oversight. The rest of the site seems really great. It’s a partnership between several Seattle entities, one if which is Seattle Tilth—a really great organization!
So, have some fun this weekend, but then get yourselves out into the garden and check over your rhodies and other evergreens for signs of Rhododendron Lace Bug… and other summertime garden pests.
To learn more about how to deal with Lace Bugs see: