Whiteflies Invade South Florida. What They Are and What You Can Do to Stop Them!
Whiteflies are a new pest that have been declared a major problem in South Florida. Whiteflies are small, winged insects and are closely related to aphids, and mealybugs. White-flies tend to feed on ficus trees, hedges, allamanda, china-berry, citrus, fringe tree, gardenia, ligustrum, viburnum, persimmon, and many annuals. Also look for whiteflies on your palm trees, spiraling whiteflies have been known to infest large numbers of palm trees in a short amount of time. Studies show that the current whitefly population can transmit around 60 or more viral plant diseases.
There are currently four species of whiteflies infecting the South Florida area. The Ficus Whitefly or Fig Whitefly gets it’s name for the specific plant genus they target, Ficus’ have around 850 different species from woody trees to shrubs and vines. The Rugose Spiraling Whitefly was first spotted on gumbo limbo in Miami-Dade County in 2009 and has been moving north with some vigor. They leave what looks like a white fingerprint or spiraling pattern and drop a sticky substance called honeydew which turns into a sooty mold if left untreated. Bondar’s Nesting Whitefly is a new species found in Broward County this year and also targets ficus trees, can leave the same gooey substance as the Rugose Whitefly and tends to turn foliage yellow. The Silverleaf or Sweetpotato whitefly have been found on tomatoes, squash, cucumber, eggplants, okra, beans, cotton, poinsettias, and other fruit and vegetables.
The Whitefly can be identified by their close resemblance to a very small white moth, they have white wings with a yellow body. Their wings tend to have a faint gray band in the middle. If the foliage is disturbed, you can see the adult white-flies flying in the vicinity. When in their immature stages, the nymphs resemble tan to light green discs with tiny red eyes. Both the eggs and nymphs can be found on the underside of leaves as the infested leaves look dotted with tiny white and/or silver spots.
If you believe you’re having a whitefly problem, do not hesitate to call. These bugs although small, can destroy a large amount of plant life especially if infestations occur.