Azalea lace-bug control is not complicated

Azalea lace bugs suck chlorophyll, turning leaves white. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Azalea lace bugs suck chlorophyll, turning leaves white. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: I have a lot of azaleas and every year they get lace bugs. I have used oil sprays and such, but these products require a lot of applications to keep the bugs under control. I read about using a drench at the root system as a once-a-year application. But I have a couple of honeybee hives and the drench warns against using if bees are present. Brian Wood, Hartwell

A: It is my understanding that imidacloprid, the common systemic drench, moves through a plant in its xylem and phloem. These sap-conducting tubes do not connect to the flowers that might attract bees. I’m not aware of any peer-reviewed studies that have found imidacloprid applied as a drench harmed honeybees. You’ll get excellent control of azalea lace bugs by applying a drench after the azalea flowers have fallen.

Q: Will cicadas hurt my newly planted Japanese maple? Madelyn Frey, Atlanta

A: If you are worrying about the Brood X 17-year periodical cicadas, you can stop. These unique insects will not appear in Atlanta. Annual cicadas will emerge in May, as they always do, but their damage is rarely noticed. Female cicadas lay eggs under soft tree bark near branch tips. The branch dies and turns brown but, since it is small, no one notices. You can protect a small tree, if needed, by draping cheesecloth or 1/4-inch mesh insect fabric over it. The next big cicada emergence in Georgia will be Brood XIX of the 13-year cicadas. Look for them in 2024.

Q: Where does one get a permit to grow poppy plants? Debra Moore, email

A: The laws governing growing the beautiful breadseed (aka opium) poppy, Papaver somniferum, are very vague. I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that gardeners do not need a permit or permission as long as they can show that they are growing the plant for its ornamental character.

Q: I am striving to be as organic as possible with my gardening. I recently found some beautiful bulk compost. But one of the components in the compost is biosolids from a water treatment facility. Is this product safe to use on vegetables? Tony McCray, email

A: Compost and other products made with biosolids are sold by several companies in Georgia. To my knowledge, all of these companies use Class A biosolids, which have been heated and tested to be sure they contain nothing harmful. They can be labeled “organic,” but they cannot be used on gardens that follow the USDA’s National Organic Program. That said, I would feel comfortable using compost that contains biosolids in my garden.

Walter’s email address is Listen to his comments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website,, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Page at

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