The lantana lace bug, Teleonemia scrupulosa Stål(Tingidae: Hemiptera), is a serious pest of lantana (Lantana camara L.). Although lantana is regarded as an invasive weed in the U.S. and worldwide, many popular cultivars are sold and planted in residential and public ornamental landscapes and gardens. Previously, the lantana lace bug was introduced deliberately to several countries as a biological control agent for lantana. Lantana lace bug is also synonymously referred to as T. lantanae or T. vanduzeei in many publications.
Identification and biology
Lantana lace bug adults are flat, about 3 mm long, 1 mm wide. Adults and nymphs are brown-colored and hide in dry leaf folds where they are easily camouflaged (Fig. 1). Adults are sculptured and have a distinct “X” mark on the back created by the wing folds (Fig. 1). The wing margins are rounded. Wings are distinctly narrowed across the abdomen. The antennae are brown and cylindrical with an elongated third segment.
Females insert single, off-white, torpedo-shaped eggs into the leaf tissue on the underside of the leaves along both sides of the mid-rib, lateral veins, and thick margins of the leaves (Fig. 2). Once the eggs are implanted, females typically cover them with tar-like excrement. Newly emerged females begin to mate and start laying eggs after 5 to 6 days. The eggs hatch and nymphs molt through five nymphal stages before molting into adults. The young nymphal stages are found aggregated on the underside of leaves (Fig. 3), but they actively disperse as they molt into later stages. The late stages of nymphs have distinct spines. Adults and nymphs are occasionally found on the upper side of the leaves. At 80 °F, the egg to adult interval is 3-4 weeks, and several overlapping generations can occur in Georgia conditions. Based on preliminary observations, adults overwinter in the leaf litter around the plant. The nymphs are found feeding on leaves at the beginning of April as the lantana plants put out new shoots from the crown. The eggs do not survive the winter as the green leaves dry up when the temperature goes below freezing. In the summer, a severe infestation of lace bugs quickly depletes the resources, and adults disperse, seeking a new lantana plant.
Both adults and nymphs of lantana lace bugs feed on the underside of leaves. They have piercing and sucking mouthparts where the feeding apparatus is reduced to needles like mouthparts, for piercing and sucking cells of the leaves. They feed on chlorophyll in the upper leaf surface by inserting the needle-like mouthparts through the stomatal opening in the underside of the leaves. The affected cells lose chlorophyll and initially appear bleached, as reduced chlorophyll content in the cells affects photosynthesis and water exchange. The affected leaves lose vigor, begin to wilt, and die from the tip of the leaves (Figs. 4 and 5). Severe infestations can affect most leaves on a plant and eventually kill the entire plant. They also feed on developing flower buds, which can shut down blooming entirely as damaged tissues die and turn brown.
Lantana plants should be regularly inspected for lace bug activity starting in April if the plants are already in the landscape. If new lantana plants are planted in the landscape during the summer, regular monitoring for lace bugs is still important. In spring, lace bug nymphs appear first, as the adults typically die after egg-laying and can’t be detected on plants. The nymphs can be observed on the underside of the leaves using a hand lens. If chlorotic leaves are observed, those leaves should be removed by hand and destroyed.
Chemical insecticides are not required if the lantana lace bug infestation is mild. The presence of many generalist predators, such as assassin bugs, mirid bugs, bigeyed bugs, minute pirate bugs, green lacewings, and spiders, could reduce the eggs and nymphs of lantana lace bugs. The repeated spray of water (high pressure) or mild insecticides, such as insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils, can reduce the densities of lantana lace bugs.
If the population size increases to unacceptable levels, applications of a chemical insecticide may be warranted. Because the flowers of lantana are extremely attractive to a wide variety of pollinators, use of insecticides should be approached very carefully. Before using any insecticide, the label should be carefully read, including the precautionary statements to avoid nontarget exposure to beneficial insects, such as predators and pollinators and predators. Please refer to Georgia Pest Control Handbooks (Homeowner and Commercial Edition) to select insecticides labeled for use against lace bugs and application on the host plant. Your local Cooperative Extension Office (1-800-ASK-UGA1) can help with proper pesticide selection. Follow all directions, particularly safety precautions on the insecticide label.
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