Some of you may have noticed an exceptionally large outbreak of the Scarlet Laurel Bugs on the new growth of your Texas Mountain Laurels this year. This scarlet red bug with a central black wing area feeds on new growth, blooms and seed pods. In addition to having piercing/sucking mouthparts, the female of this species inserts eggs in to plant tissue with a bladelike ovipositor, causing further damage to foliage on your trees.
Scarlet Laurel Bugs are “True Bugs”, meaning they are in the Order Hemiptera, and are related to Stink Bugs. Control in most years is not usually necessary, as little damage is done. Some years, such as this year, when they appear in droves, some measure of control would be advised. Left to feed, they will distort newly formed leaves and your tree growth may be stunted. Like other “True Bugs”, spraying them is a challenge, as they tend to fly away quickly as you begin spraying. I have found it most effective to sneak up on them with a hose-end sprayer and blast the whole tree as quickly as possible. Pyrethrins and synthetic Pyrethrins such as Permethrin are effective, as long as you target the insect. Oil sprays may also be effective, but again, you must target the insect, as there is no residual action. Please consult our nursery staff for additional control measures.