Outdoor pest control for a Camellia tree with moths

Asked June 4, 2018, 4:26 PM EDT

I have a lovely Camellia tree that has had sticky white webbing all over it for years. Never knew what it was. All along, I've had a pantry moth problem, but no moths or larvae ever found in kitchen or around any pantry items. I have a lightbulb moment one day when looking out the window at this tree and reading about the pantry moth webbing. Then I read that the Camellia tree leaves are used for tea. Therefore I've figured out the source of the food for the moths and realized the moths are not coming from inside my house. I do love this tree and the pretty pink flowers it has every winter, but these moths are a real pest and have caused lots of damage to clothing in my home. How can I treat the tree, kill the moths and webbing, but still save the tree. I would hate to have to cut it down. Thank you.

Prince George's County Maryland

3 Responses

Pantry moths (Indian meal moths) are an indoor pest that feeds on cereals, grains, spices, nuts, flour, pasta, dried fruit, birdseed, dry animal food, spices, chocolate, and candies. It is unlikely that there is any association with your outdoor Camellia plant. The Camellia used for tea leaves is Camellia sinensis. Our commonly planted Camellia is a different species -- Camellia japonica -- used for its ornamental flowers, not for tea. We would be happy to look at photos of your Camellia plant to determine what's causing the sticky white webbing on it. It could be spiders. You can attach up to three photos for us to look at. For pantry moths, you need to remove and dispose of any infested products. Keep pantry foods stored in glass jars, plastic containers, or metal canisters. There is much more information about pantry moths and how to control them, here on our website. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/indian-meal-moth


Your third photo clearly shows two brown spiders. That is the source of your webbing.
The white oval shapes you see are cottony camellia scale. Scale is a type of insect with a protective cover. You can spray the immatures when they hatch, because they come out from under the cover. They are called "crawlers". Spray with horticultural soap or oil. Be sure not to do it on a hot day.

Read this webpage carefully for spray timing: http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/cottony-camellia-scale-shrubs

Cottony camellia scale is a type of soft scale, which means it excrete a sweet substance called honeydew. A fungus called sooty mold grows in the honeydew and makes the leaves look black and dirty. The honeydew also can attract insects that eat it, and that may be why you have so many spiders--they are eating the insects that are attracted.

Treat the scale and the rest of the problems should go away.

Here is more about soft scale if you're interested: http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/plants/soft-scales-trees-and-shrubs