Are these bugs on my camelias or a disease?

I was outside with the dogs this morning and just happened to look at my camelias. They are covered with little white things. Are these aphids or some kind of bug or disease? The white things are under the leaves and the tops of the leaves are turning brown. Shouldn't bugs be dead this time of year? Should I treat it with a spray or something? I have read that soap, like Dr. Bronner, can help but it's so cold in the mornings. Isn't it dangerous to do it this time of year? Also, I've got big buds all over the plants. I don't want to damage them. Help please.
q are these bugs on my camelias or a disease, gardening
q are these bugs on my camelias or a disease, gardening
q are these bugs on my camelias or a disease, gardening
  34 answers
  • Walter Reeves Walter Reeves on Dec 31, 2011
    An excellent example of tea scale insects on camellia. The easiest way to control is with two sprays of horticultural oil (like neem oil) : one now and one in April....and maybe another in May if the white things haven't all turned brown.

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Jan 01, 2012
    Using Neem should not affect the plant's buds, Teresa.

  • Mike and Anne Mike and Anne on Jan 01, 2012
    Anne is an advocate of Horticultural Oil mixed with water to control scale on camellias. It smothers the insect. I spray the back and front of the leaf at the first signs of damage . Neem oil is a different "animal" for this camellia grower and more expensive when you have over 300 plants as she does. I have never had any problem with bud damage as long as you do not spray when temperatures are hot (above 75F). Some "organic growers" prefer insecticidal soap but I don't think it is as effective..

  • Sherrie S Sherrie S on Jan 01, 2012
    Teresa D, I am glad I read your post as it made me look at my camellia plants and I found I have the same problem. It happens every year & in the past I took water and a little dove dishwashing soap and wiped the leaves. That is too much work so I'll be buying something I can spray on. It would be nice to see a picture of your camilla when it blooms.

  • Gale W Gale W on Jan 01, 2012
    More than likely you have Whiteflies. This bug nests on the underside of leaves and I have seen them in temps as low as 30 degrees. I use a insecticidal soap (enviro brand) and pump sprayer so I can get underneath the leaves and kill them. I have a greenhouse and do this to each plant I bring in each year to keep them from multiplying over the winter.

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Jan 01, 2012
    I purchased a gallon pump sprayer and some neem oil stuff and treated all my camelias today. I wonder if there is such a thing as using too much? I pretty much drenched the plants ensuring I got under the leaves. I hope that does the trick. We'll soon see. Glad I got it in today because it is supposed to get cold tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll have some beauties! Thanks everyone!

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Jan 02, 2012
    Good luck, Teresa. Sounds like you did the right thing.

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Jan 03, 2012
    I checked on my camelias this morning and the leaves are starting to curl under. Is that from the oil or maybe from the cold?

  • Sherrie S Sherrie S on Jan 03, 2012
    Teresa I don't think it is the oil. I put the oil on my camelias yesterday in Florida. They still have the white stuff but the buds look good. How cold did it get in GA yesterday?

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Jan 03, 2012
    I believe it got down to the high teens. We are supposed to have a low of 19 degrees tonight. By the way, the buds looked ok .. it was just the leaves that were curling.

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Jan 05, 2012
    Just as a follow-up, the leaves uncurled later in the day. I guess they were just shocked from the cold. Some of the bugs have turned brown but a good deal of them are still white. I guess I'll have to treat it again, like Walter said, in the Spring.

  • Sherrie S Sherrie S on Jan 05, 2012
    Don't forget to post the pics when it blooms. I want to compare our flowers although I think yours will be bigger and nicer than mine. It seems this type of plant prefers the cooler Georgia weather.

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Jan 05, 2012
    Will do, Sherrie!

  • Oils are easy but some can not be sprayed when too hot or too cold but the directions will say. I would repeat a spraying in 7 to 10 days as an additional cleanup for babies that have hatched so to speak.Be sure to spay all leaves but especially the undersides which is where they start.

  • Shirley R Shirley R on Jan 22, 2012
    Is their a Camellia which the blooms look like peppermint candy/red and white. I think I have seen one but do not know the name.

  • Yes there are. I'll check my Camellia Encyclopedia tomorrow. I van't believe I'm still up, but this Hometalk is captivating

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Mar 17, 2012
    Update: sprayed my camelias again this week. They bloomed pretty well from early Jan to now. I have 2 blooms left. But many of the leaves look pretty sick. Those bugs have spread to the other shrubs. ( I think it is another kind of camelia.) 3 days later and they are still white. A good majority of them turned brown the first time I sprayed but they seem to have multiplied. I sprayed everything from top to bottom and underneath with the Neem oil mixture. Maybe I need something stronger?

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 18, 2012
    Teresa, insecticides are only effective against scale insects when they are in their young crawler stage, so you generally have to make at least two applications, 10 days apart. You can try another horticultural oil if you do not feel the neem is effective.

    • See 1 previous
    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Sep 14, 2014
      @Katie Price I am very concerned about possible connections between neonicotinoids and bees, but it is certainly better to apply them as a soil drench than as a spray.

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Mar 18, 2012
    so, if they are adult, it won't work? Will anything work against the adults? What about insecticidal soap?

  • Sherrie S Sherrie S on Mar 18, 2012
    Teresa, my plants are too ugly to post. I had a few flowers but nothing to brag about (or post here). The plants start out looking good, then get the white stuff. When I notice, I spray the plants. I don't think these plants like to live here. My plants are over 10 years old so they are adults,

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 19, 2012
    Teresa, the adults develop a protective outer covering that makes most insecticides ineffective. Insecticidal soap is also only effective against the crawler stage. This is why the staged applications are important, to disrupt the reproductive cycle.

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Mar 19, 2012
    @Sherrie, do you have the awful spotted leaves? My camelias in the front are full and very nice. These in the back are more straggly .. not full at all. But the flowers looked really nice this year - despite the fickle weather. I don't recall seeing the bugs last year. @Douglas, will the bugs eventually go away or might I lose my camelias? Will pruning it significantly make a difference? If I had to guess, I would guess they are as old as the house. Maybe 20 yrs old.

  • Sherrie S Sherrie S on Mar 19, 2012
    Yes, I did have spotted leaves but I didn't spray them until I read your post. Guess it was too late. There were many buds but almost all fell off the plant. My plant looks healthy now so I will pay more attention this year. Thanks for reminding me.

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 20, 2012
    @Teresa: I don't think there's much chance of you losing your camellias. Keep up with the spraying program and you should get things under control.

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Mar 20, 2012
    Cool ... thanks @Douglas!

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Jul 22, 2012
    Uuuugh! I think the mites are winning! I've treated my camelias with Neem Oil about 3 times and I finally used some Bayer Rose and Flower insecticide. I don't think I'm winning here. I've noticed mites on the underside of new growth and the other variation of camelias next to these. What would happen if I were to just cut off all the leaves that are infected? Would new leaves replace the ones I removed?

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Jul 23, 2012
    I think you need to apply more often to interrupt the life cycle of the mites, Teresa. Cutting off the leaves will not do that.

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Jul 23, 2012
    Thanks Douglas. I'll get on it again. These bugs are tricky! Grrrrrr!

  • Sherrie S Sherrie S on Jul 23, 2012
    Teresa D, you and I need to share our pics & success if that ever happens. My plants have been here for at least 15 years, they get the ugly white stuff that later makes them drop flowers. i wait a year then see pretty pink and also white flowers on the ground.

  • Teresa D Teresa D on Jul 23, 2012
    Sherrie S, are your camelias still looking healthy?

  • Sherrie S Sherrie S on Jul 24, 2012
    Teresa D, today YES very healthy, tomorrow who knows. Seems they get ugly when it is time to flower.

  • Pamela Langone Pamela Langone on Sep 13, 2014
    Are you sure its bugs it looks like a fungus that took out a lot of my plants

  • Tlg7301753 Tlg7301753 on Jun 19, 2016
    Spray these leafs with Oleum mixed with water available at your garden center. Other dish washer and water solution. in a spray bottle and just spray the of.

  • Sandra Sandra on Dec 04, 2017
    White flies. Purchase spray at Lowe's or Home Depot.