Olive lace bug
The olive lace bug, Froggattia olivina (Hemiptera: Tingidae) is an Australian native sap sucking insect that has moved from its native host, mock olive (Notelaea longifolia) to the cultivated olive (Olea europaea).
Olive lace bug’s native range was restricted to eastern Australia where it was common in Queensland and New South Wales, but is now recorded in all states except the Northern Territory. It can reduce yields and kill trees if left untreated. Olive lace bug is considered a serious threat to the olive industry in Victoria.
What does it look like?
Adults are flat, 2-3mm long, mottled dark brown and cream in colour with large, black-tipped antennae and lace-like see-through wings (Figure 1). Nymphs (juvenile adults) are oval in shape and undergo 5 moults (instars).
Early instars are wingless and vary in colour from light cream or greenish-yellow to pinkish-orange.
Later instars are green to greyish-black in colour, possess spines and wing buds (Figure 1). Olive lace bugs can be found in large numbers on the under surfaces of leaves (Figure 2).
How does it behave?
Olive lace bugs can have between two to four generations per year depending on the climate. Eggs are inserted into leaf tissue on the underside of leaves often near the main vein leaving visible slits in the leaf tissue. Eggs laid in May to June overwinter and hatch during spring (September to October).
Some adults may survive the winter in protected places on the tree. The life cycle ranges from 12 to 23 days but may extend to seven weeks depending on weather.
Signs of damage
Despite olive lace bugs commonly feeding on the under surface of leaves, indications of an infestation are generally seen on the upper leaf surface where initial greenish to rust coloured stippling of the leaves develop into marked yellow spotting (Figure 3).
Black tar spots may develop on this surface. Leaves may turn brown or rusty and drop off, while twig dieback can occur in severe infestations (Figures 4A & B).
Tree vigour, flowering and fruiting can be delayed, and can result in reduced fruit yield for the next one to two seasons. Heavy infestations can defoliate trees and kill young trees. Whole groves can be defoliated, and death of mature trees has been observed in WA.
How does it spread?
Stressed trees are considered more susceptible to olive lace bugs. Stress may be associated with lack of nutrients, water, poor soil conditions, neglect, shading and competition.
Olive lace wing nymphs are relatively immobile, cluster on the undersurface of leaves and could be spread on planting material. Adults will fly off plant material when disturbed, fly short distances and can be dispersed by wind. Spread could also occur by itinerant workers and shared machinery.
- Monitor the trees regularly from early spring for evidence of hatching of the overwintering eggs.
- Treat the tree soon after lace bug activity is first noticed, as populations can multiply rapidly.
- Test soil and leaves for nutrient balances and fertilize if required, as stressed trees are considered more susceptible to olive lace bug.
- Maintain good nutrition, mulch and irrigation to avoid stressing trees.
- Control the size and shape of trees to reduce tree height and open the canopy as the olive lace bug avoids light and spraying will be more effective.
- There is evidence that difference olive cultivars may have different susceptibilities to olive lace bug.
- Biological control options include several native parasites and the native green lacewing which is commercially available.
- Organic insecticide options are available but may only target specific stages of the life-cycle.
- Insecticides with permits for control of olive lace bug can be found on the APVMA website. https://portal.apvma.gov.au/permits . Note: (i) Permits have an expiry date and (ii) Olive lace bug has a reputation for developing resistance to insecticides.
The authors thank Dr Vera Sergeeva and Graeme and Ester Townes for providing information and comment on this website.
Various images are courtesy of 'Olive lace bug in Western Australia' – © State of Western Australia (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, WA)
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