The lantana lace bug, Teleonemia scrupulosa Stål, often causes extensive damage to lantana, Lantana camara L. Although lantana is sometimes used as an ornamental, it is usually considered a weed. It often forms spiny, dense, impenetrable thickets covering large areas of valuable land. The lantana lace bug has been introduced into many countries as a biological control agent to combat lantana.
About 15 plant species (mostly Lantana and Leucophyllum spp.) are recorded as hosts of the lantana lace bug (Harley and Kassulke 1971). However, damage to plants other than lantana has been slight and transitory with one exception. In East Africa after defoliating lantana, lantana lace bugs moved to sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) causing economic losses to the crop (Greathead 1968). On Lantana, the lace bug feeds on the undersurface of the leaves and greedily attacks newly opened buds and flowers. On purple sage, it feeds on the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves. When on the upper surface, the black excrement spots are readily visible (Johnson and Lyon 1991).
Lace bugs feed on the underside of leave, but the damage is very apparent on the upper surface. Damage symptoms bear a strong resemblance to leafhopper damage, but lace bugs produce varnish-like spots on the underside of the leaves. An occasional shed “skin” of a leafhopper nymph is evidence of the cause of that damage. Lace bug damage may resemble mite injury from a distance. However, feeding by mites causes chlorotic flecks in the leaves that are much finer than those caused by lace bugs. Close examination reveals that large numbers of contiguous cells are chlorotic where lace bugs have fed. Positive identification of lace bug damage is confirmed by the presence of brown patches of black droplets of excrement on the undersides of the damaged leaves. Frequently, the cast “skins” of nymphs remain attached to the underside of leaves (Johnson and Lyon 1991). Severe infestations cause the leaves to become almost white and drop from the plants (Short 1998).