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"The half closest to the house..'? This is a house problem--remove same. Or probably it is heat reflection from the house from last year's hot spell. Move to a better site--or maybe install drip irigation or a special irrigation head. Is there cement around it so roots cannot get any air?
Is that topiary a drawf alberta spruce? Very finicky plant. Mites can be checked by putting clean white paper under the shrub and shaking the shrub. Some mites will fall and the paper and you should be able to see them, might take a magnifying glass. As mentioned the heat reflection or lack of air flow to the backside of the plant could be an issue as well. If the plant is in any type of stress, it will be more prone to any pest and disease problem, and constant pruning can be very stressful.
Unfortunately if it is mites, you can treat and kill them, but any dead growth will not come back and it will not fill in. These plants, even though called drawf are anything but. It is a drawf of a White Spruce, which is a huge tree, so drawf is relative. This plant can get to be 25' or more tall and as wide in a long time. They are very slow growing, but do get quite large.
I think it's a combination of all your suggestions. The afternoon sun gets really hot there and the driveway is 2' away. I'll try to take pics tomorrow.
I accidentally bumped into the tree and all these bugs flew out. There were definitely mosquitos in there. Mosquitos seem to be every where but I don't have any standing water. I put down Crosscheck on the lawn yesterday so I'm hoping that helps.