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Some Major Arthropod Pests of Holly

Stephen Bambara, Extension Entomologist

CAUTION: This information was developed for North Carolina and may not apply to other areas.
Note: There are 75-100 arthropod pests reported on holly (Ilex sp.).  A few of the most common ones have been chosen from the main taxonomic groups of mites, moths, beetles, flies, aphids and scale.


- discoloration noted during Summer or Winter
- flattened oval eggs or clear egg shells present in Summer and Winter with center thread
- mites almost black body with pale yellow-brown legs
- eggs laid underside of leaves
- use 10X hand lens to check

*horticultural oil, Floramite, Hexygon, sprayed in cool season while mites active. Follow-up sprays may be required with oil.

southern red mite

False Spider Mite (eg. Privet Mite)

- microspopic 275 microns
- leaf chlorosis or bronzing
- leaf stunting
- females sometimes with black markings, males reddish, larvae orange

*hort oil, Judo, Scimitar, Avid, other



Tea Scale

- yellow splotches on upper leaf surface
- chalky masses of oblong and "keel-like" white male and brown female scales on leaf underside
- infestation spreads slowly
- overwinters as eggs beneath scale
- crawlers appear March-May

*hand pick leaves, if practical
*hort oil or insecticidal soap on underside of leaf during crawler stage
*2-3 applications, 7-10 days apart may be needed
*Mississippi study showed control with dinotefuran

teascale on leaf

Wax Scale

- white waxy scales on stem
- produces honeydew and black sooty mold
- crawlers in late May

*hand pick if just a few
*hort oils for crawlers late May-early June
*dinotefuran systemic soil drench

wax scale on holly

- large, yellow to brown, with elongate cottony masses
- more frequent around leaf edges
- crawlers in late spring to early summer
- may produce honeydew to support sooty mold

*remove by hand in low numbers
*hort oil directed at crawler stage
*imidacloprid systemic soil drench, possibly

cottony scales on holly leaf

-large, whitish cottony masses
-more common on stems
-crawlers in late spring-summer
-not common on boxwood

*remove by hand or pruning in low numbers
*hort oil directed at crawler stage
*imidacloprid systemic soil drench

cottony cushion scale on boxwood stem

Pit Scale

- oval, convex, translucid, yellowish green, pinhead size
- found on stems, distorts stems, reduces foliage, dieback
- crawlers in late June to summer

*hort oil, Talstar, Discus, Allectus, Distance + hort oil during crawler stage
*dinotefuran soil drench

oak pit scale

Florida Red Scale

- dark reddish brown, almost circular test ("armor")
- infest the leaves, green stems and fruit
- several generations, peak in summer
- often found parasitized
- serious citrus pest

*hort oil, Talstar, Discus, Allectus, Distance + hort oil during crawler stage
*dinotefuran soil drench

florida red scale on holly leaf

Yellow Scale

- dark orange-yellow circular rings
- may be on both sides of leaf
- common on citrus, more tropical, greenhouse, interior
- not certain how well this will survive winters in NC

*hort oil, Talstar, Discus, Allectus, Distance + hort oil during crawler stage
*dinotefuran soil drench
*pheromone available

yellow scale on holly leaf

Japanese Maple Scale

-small, elongate armored scale; white waxy covering
-waxy covering wipes off to dark brown
-brown shed skins may be present
-dieback may occur
-numerous other host plants
-crawlers may be present May-June

*hort oils, dormant or summer. repeat several times
*Safari (dinotefuran) systemic soil drench
*Distance or Talus insect growth regulators
*replace shrub

japanese maple scale on holly stem

Other Homoptera

Twolined Spittlebug

-splotchy look on underside of leaves
-premature leaf drop
-nymphs develop in nearby turf

* treat nymphs while in turf if severe in summer
* acephate, pyrethroid, or carbaryl will protect foliage


spittlebug on holly

Caterpillars and Moths

Holly Looper

- deep marginal notching of leaves
- anal prolegs plus one pair abdominal prolegs
- light green to brown; last instar larva about 3/4".
- moths migrate northward from Gulf each spring
- attacks American, Chinese, English, and yaupon

*severe damage rare
*any caterpillar insecticide effective

green looper


Two-banded Japanese Weevil

- adult feeding on new leaves and shoots
- bands on wings, drop to ground when disturbed
- plants appear tattered
- highest populations in July-August
- all stages overwinter beneath plant

* carbaryl, acephate or pyrethroid foliar sprays
* imidacloprid in root zone may be helpful in some situations

weevils on holly stem

Black Vine Weevil

- adults notch leaf margins of older foliage
- legless grubs eat roots
- eggs deposited  in leaf litter and soil
- plant may become stunted and ragged
- adults active at night, do not fly

* imidacloprid soil drench for larvae
* pyrethroid protectants on foliage for adults

weevil stages and damage


Holly Leafminer

- usually serpentine mine; and/or pin-point oviposition scars on underside of leaf
- one generation/year in evergreen Ilex
- egg laying usually April

*hand pick leaves if not too many
*foliar sprays during oviposition
*systemic imidacloprid or dinotefuron

serpentine mine in leafoviposition scars in leaf

Key to scale of Holly in Florida

Alternative Plants-

Boxwood (Buxus), Osmanthus, Abelia, wax myrtle (Myrica).
Al Cooke, Extension Agent, has assembled a list of evergreen screening plants for Chatham County.

Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical.

For assistance, contact your county North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service agent.

Other Resources

Prepared by: S. B. Bambara , Extension Entomologists. Photos © J.R. Baker and S.Bambara. Permission required.
Brevipalus mite- Rayanne Lehman Bugwood.org. Golden oak scale- United States National Collection of Scale Insects Photographs Archive. Holly looper by D. Wagner, D. Ferguson, T. McCabe, Richard Reardon. Florida red scale - Charles Hesselein. Cottony camellia scale- Anne Edwards.

ENT/ort-143. September, 2007
Web page last reviewed January, 2011.