Insects & Pests

Insects & Pests

Debbie Odom

Pictured above:  Aphids on new growth of Camellia

Camellias can be attacked by several different types of insects.   It is much easier to prevent a problem or catch it when it’s small instead of trying to battle it once it gets out of control.

Insect damage that is out of control can damage the plant to the point of death or to where it severely stunts the plant.  As a grower, staying on top of insect control is a very important task if you want to give your customers the camellias they deserve.

Control of these below can be done with insecticides both topical and systemic. You can also gain good control that is safer for you and your plants with an All-Seasons Horticultural Oil or Insecticide Soap.   Tea Scale is the most difficult to control, but it can be done if what you’re spraying with saturates the insects completely.  Horticultural Oil works through suffocation and will be less killing of good insects that eat the bad.

These are the most common insects of Camellias starting with the most severe:

Tea Scale

This pest is very often confused with a disease called Powdery Mildew and many people will treat with the wrong method because they don't understand that this is an insect.  Tea scale is the most common insect found on camellias. Left untreated, plants can become unhealthy which can result in the plant’s poor performance or death.  Scale insects attach camellias from under the leaves and usually appear as a white web-like substance.  Damage from scale can be seen on the upper part of the leaf as mottled yellow areas.


Mites are another insect that can be found under the leaves of camellias as very fine dust like substance that easily washes off with water.  Damage to upper leaves from mites appear as a bronzing look starting at center and spreading down the main vein to the edges

Treat both scale and mites using a horticultural oil spray.  Both should be available at your local garden center.  The use of an oil spray kills insects through suffocation so it’s very important to spray the underside of the leaves.  A good rule of thumb is to complete saturate the under and upper side of leaves until you see no more white.  Regular applications in the spring and fall as a preventative and in-between applications if you see instances of these little pests creep up. 


Aphids usually attack the new growth of camellias in the spring or as buds develop.  They are small ant-like insects and are very visible.  There is really no prevention, but treatment with an insecticide labeled for Aphids will usually do the trick if you see them.  It’s not unusual to find ands where you find aphids.  Aphids secrete a sweet sticky substance that can attract ants.   Occasionally aphids can attack flower buds as well causing damage to unopened buds. 


Deer will eat camellias.  If you have a problem, fence small plants or cover with netting the first year or so.  Once camellias get large, they usually don’t mess with them.  Deer damage can stunt growth, cause diseases & ultimate plant death if left untreated

Caterpillars and other leaf eating insects

Significant damage can be done to leaves by caterpillars and other leaf eating insects.  Normally in the south, these come out and night and feast on the leaves then retreat back to the soil or lower branches during the heat of the day.  Control is difficult without the use of insecticides.  There are some insecticidal soaps that may provide some degree of insect control in addition to the traditional insecticides.


 Top Photo - Aphids on C. hybrid Spring Festival