Whiteflies in South Florida
Affecting hedges, trees and palms
What is it? Two types of white flies have been reported in South Florida as damaging plant insects. One is the Ficus whitefly, and the other is the Spiraling whitefly. Ficus Whiteflies are small, winged insects that belong to the Order Hemiptera which also includes aphids scales, and mealybugs. These insects typically feed on the underside of leaves with their “needle-like” mouth-parts. Whiteflies can seriously injure host plants by sucking juices from them causing wilting, yellowing, stunting, leaf drop, or even death. Spiraling whiteflies on the other hand are not as damaging but should still be treated as soon as any signs appear like white spirals and a build-up of a white, waxy substance on the underside of leaves. Overtime, black sooty mold may grow on the insect’s excrement referred to as honeydew.
White Fly Ficus DamageA sign of a ficus infestation is the yellowing of the leaves and losing of the leaves to then expose the branches
White Fly TreatmentDrenching the root system of the ficuses with an insecticide is part of the treament to get rid of white flies
Adult White FliesWhite fly saliva is toxic to the plants and the honeydew they secret promotes mold growth
What's the damage? The leaves of ficus trees infested with whiteflies begin to turn yellow before the leaves are dropped from the plant. Ficus trees without their leaves are one of the most obvious symptoms of a whitefly infestation. This whitefly has been most commonly found infesting weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) but has also been seen on F. altissima, F. bengalensis (also called “banyan tree”), F. microcarpa, and F. maclellandii in Miami and surrounding areas. Weeping figs are commonly used as hedges but also grow as trees. Other hosts include the strangler fig (F. aurea), Cuban laurel (F. microcarpa), fiddle-leaf fig (F. lyrata) and banana-leaf fig (F. macllandii). This whitefly may eventually be found on other species of ficus. Azalea has also been listed as a host plant.If the foliage is disturbed the small, white gnat-like adult whiteflies can be seen flying from the foliage. The adult whitefly resembles a very small moth with a yellow body and white wings with a faint grey band in the middle of the wings. Immature stages (eggs and nymphs) can be found primarily on the underside of the leaves. Prior to adult emergence, the nymphs are tan to light green discs with red eyes. The underside of infested leaves look like they are dotted with small, silver or white spots which are actually the empty “skin” of the pupae after the adult emerges.What do researchers know? The biology of the ficus whitefly is not known, however, it is probably similar to related species in Florida. Eggs which are usually laid on the underside of leaves hatch into a crawler stage. The crawler wanders around the leaf until they begin to feed. From this point until they emerge as adults, they are immobile and remain in the same place on the plant. These feeding, non-mobile stages (nymphs) are usually oval, flat, and simple in appearance. One thing for sure is that without insecticide, you could lose your ficus. And unless you catch the problem early, you won't have much time to decide. Large, dense hedges can be stripped in less than two months of infestation.What Should you do? Call Orange Pest Control right now! Even if you do not see any evidence at the moment, it might be a wise option to do a preventative treatment just in case or if your ficus tree or hedge may already appear to be dying after losing most of its leaves, there is a chance your ficus may still be alive and Orange Pest Control can treat it and may be able to salvage the tree or hedge. In the case of spiraling whiteflies call if you see any evidence of white buildup or honeydew on your palms.
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