Most lace bugs have very specific host preferences that aid in making field identifications. The adults have beautifully sculptured wings that resemble an intricate, lacy network. They range in size for 3 to 6 millimeters. All the closely related species of lace bugs overwinter as adults in the bark crevices, branch crotches, or similar protected areas of their hosts. All closely related species have the same sequence of events in life cycle development. For example, in Oklahoma, the hawthorn lace bug has host preference for pyrancantha, hawthorn, and quince. The sycamore lace bug prefers sycamore; the elm lace bug the American elm, and the oak lace bug the oak species.
With similar life cycles for most species, the adult lace bug emerges from overwintering about the time sycamore leaves begin to develop in the spring. Eggs are attached to the underside of leaves with brown sticky substance. Within a few days, the eggs hatch and nymphs begin feeding on the undersides of the leaves. With sucking mouthparts they pierce the leaf and withdraw fluids and cell contents causing characteristic chlorotic flecks which are visible on the upper side of the leaf.
The nymphs only slightly resemble the adults. They are darker, lack wings, and their bodies are often covered with large finely pointed spines. A complete life cycle, from egg to adult, may be completed in approximately 30 days. Several generations occur each year. In late summer, all stages may be found feeding together. By this time, there are dark, varnish-like spots that are the excrement of the lace bugs, common on the undersides of the leaves. Frequently, the cast skins of nymphs remain attached to the undersides of leaves.
The natural enemies of lace bugs include lacewing larvae, assassin bugs, spiders, and predaceous mites. Lace bugs are not particularly difficult to control with most readily available ornamental insecticides. However, thorough coverage such that spray hits the undersides of the leaves, is critical. Read label directions to provide good control of lace bugs.
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