American Camellia Society Camellia Growing Tips & Culture
American Camellia Society The Garden Report: Questions & Answers
Norfolk Botanical Garden Hofheimer Camellia Garden


There are a number of insects and pests which cause occasional damage to camellias, but only a relatively few are of great importance. Only those species which are common on camellias will be discussed here. Damage to camellias by insects is quite common. However, many growers fail to recognize the symptoms before serious injury occurs. Examining camellias regularly for damaging pests can help prevent serious injury to the plants.


Scale insects are the most common and troublesome insects on camellias. They represent about 90% of the insect problem on camellias. They usually go unnoticed until considerable damage has been done and a large population has developed. Many of them have several generations a year. They injure by sucking vital juices from the plant

Tea Scale: This is the most common and probably the most damaging insect pest of camellias. Tea scale infests only the underside of a leaf. Male insects appear whitish while the females are dark brown. Symptoms include yellow chlorotic splotches on the upper leaf surface. A white, woolly-like, cottony-looking mass secreted by the males may be seen on the under surface.

Camellia Scale: Like the tea scale, this scale infests only the leaves of camellia. The female is light to medium brown and oystershell-shaped about 1/10 inch long. The male is similar but shorter.

Peony Scale: This scale is less common than tea or camellia scale. However, when present it is a serious pest. Infestations may kill branches and entire plants if not controlled. Peony scale is found on the stems and branches of camellias (and azaleas). They are hard to recognize as they camouflage themselves well. The hard shell which covers their body is blended to match the color of the stems. If the shell is removed, a white, circular waxy spot is left on the stem.

Wax Scale: This scale is also found on the stems and trunks of camellias and many other woody ornamentals. The waxy covering is white or slightly pink, oval, and 1/4 inch in diameter.

Control of Scale: Scale infestations are more difficult to control when populations are heavy. Homeowners should make spray applications when the first sign of scale is seen. Oil emulsion sprays will give effective control if applied properly. This is a contact insecticide. For it to be effective, the plants must be thoroughly covered. Oil emulsion sprays should be applied only during the spring and fall when the temperature is 40 - 85 F. Spraying in the heat of the day may result in burning the leaves. As a general rule, apply no more than three times per year with at least 60 days in between sprays. Oils are compatible with other insecticides.

Aphids or Plant Lice

These pests can become a problem during the peak growing time. They are small insects that form colonies on the undersides of leaves or along the stems of tender new growth. They are rarely seen on mature, hardened tissue. They injure plants by sucking their juices with a long beak. Aphids excrete honeydew, a sticky substance which attracts sooty mold. Aphids are relatively easy to kill although repeated sprays may be necessary. Soaps may be used.


Mites are very small, sucking pets that may be found on either the under or upper side of plant foliage. They are difficult to see with the naked eye; a magnifying glass is helpful. Symptoms include a dusty, gray appearance to the foliage. In heavy infestations you may see webs covering infested areas. Heavy infestation may also cause defoliation. A single spray of miticide in mid-May usually prevents severe injury. A second spray applied in 10 - 14 days may be necessary to kill those mites which have hatched from eggs. Mites are more severe in a hot, dry climate.

Camellia bud mites are small pests that occur under the scales of vegetative and flower buds. flower buds with heavy infestations show brown edges on the bud scales early. If left unchecked the buds turn brown and drop before blooming. Thorough spray control is essential to obtain good control of these mites.

ACS publishes Camellia Insects, a leaflet of more information that is illustrated with color photographs. Please email the gift shop for ordering information for Camellia Insects, item 4206/Insects.

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