My azalea leaves are turning a light tan color, and all I see when inspecting them are little black dots on the back of the leaf. Is this a disease or an insect?
Both adult and immature azalea lace bugs (Stephanitis pyrioides) are feeding on the leaves. Do not confuse this injurious insect with the beneficial lace wing insect. Lace bugs are most damaging on azaleas grown in full sunlight and much less so on those grown in light or moderate shade. Feeding activity is closely associated with new growth, so inspect plants at each flush of new growth. Damage symptoms appear three to four weeks after lace bugs begin feeding, so check early and often. Look at the underside of leaves for pinhead-sized winged insects with lacey wings. Control by applying systemic or contact insecticides to the underside of the leaf. Early detection is the key to preventing permanent leaf damage.
Contact your local Extension office for insecticide recommendations.