Whiteflies: Fort Lauderdale’s Tree and Plant Intruders

From the City of Fort Lauderdale Civic Packet, September 2012...

Rugose Spiraling Whiteflies on the underside of Gumbo Limbo tree leaves

Whiteflies have become a major pest for Fort Lauderdale’s neighbors, with at least two different species impacting the City’s landscape– the Ficus Whitefly and the Rugose Spiraling Whitefly. Both of these species have been found throughout Fort Lauderdale.

While many people with Ficus hedges are familiar with Ficus whiteflies and have been treating them for years; the Rugose Spiraling
Whiteflies are relatively new.

The Rugose Spiraling Whitefly was first discovered in the City in the spring of 2011 and since then has spread throughout the City. Trees and plants infested with Rugose Spiraling Whitefly may have leaves that are yellowing, dropping, or have an underside covered with white, waxy material. The tops of the leaves may also be covered with Whitefly excrement, called honeydew, and its accompanying black sooty mold. Plants, walkways, cars, outdoor furniture, and even pools may become covered with the sticky material and start becoming moldy.

Another view of Rugose Spiraling Whiteflies on the underside of Gumbo Limbo tree leaves

The methods for managing the two species of Whitefly are similar and many pest control companies offer whitefly treatment services. However, before hiring a professional, inquire whether the company has received training through the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) program for the treatment of whiteflies.

While pest control companies may offer a variety of whitefly treatments, the three most effective treatments are:

1.      Soil drenching around the base of the tree or plants,

2.      Spraying the trunk of the tree with Safari insecticide, and

3.      Tree trunk injections.

Spraying the leaves of the plant or tree is not an effective method and can result in killing beneficial insects and whiteflies’ natural predators.

Homeowners that want a do-it-yourself method may easily apply over-the-counter systemic insecticides using the soil drenching method. These insecticides are available in most stores that sell gardening supplies.  Please make sure you always follow the label instructions.  For more information about whitefly treatment, please review the Rugose Spiraling Whitefly Guide for Homeowners on the City’s website at http://monroe.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/Hort/GLSW_Factsheet-Guide_for_HO.pdf

 Rugose Spiraling Whitefly and Swimming Pools

If you have Rugose Spiraling Whitefly in trees or palms near a swimming pool, the pool’s water may be turning green. This may be a result of the honeydew – a clear, sticky secretion from the whiteflies – falling into your pool water.  It is recommended that you seek help from a pool care professional to establish pool chemistry levels or you could take a water sample to a local pool supply store for analysis.

Steps to resolve the issue may include super chlorinating the pool and/or backwashing (cleaning) the pool filters. However, an algaecide or shock treatment using products containing sodium bromide or potassium mononpersulfate to oxidize the organic matter in the water may be needed.

Always follow the label instructions for any chemicals you use!

 For more information about whiteflies, please visit http://ci.ftlaud.fl.us/life/urban_forestry/whitefly.htm or call (954) 828-7704 GDempsey@fortlauderdale.gov

You may also visit the UF/IFAS website at http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/agriculture/whiteflies.html

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