Spiraling Whitefly on Palm Trees
Whiteflies are small, winged insects that belong to the Order Hemiptera which also includes aphids scales, mealybugs, and bugs. These insects typically feed on the underside of leaves with their “needle-like” mouthparts. Whiteflies can seriously injure host plants by sucking juices from them causing wilting, yellowing, stunting, leaf drop, or even death.
What Are Whiteflies
According to Wikipedia, “Whiteflies are small hemipterans that typically feed on the undersides of plant leaves. They comprise the family Aleyrodidae, the only member of the superfamily Aleyrodoidea. More than 1550 species have been described.
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.
Rugose Spiraling Whitefly
The Rugose Spiraling Whitefly is a large, slow moving insect capable of infesting a wide range of landscape plants such as:
- Gumbo limbo
- Calophyllum (Tamanu)
- Black olive
- Wax Myrtle
- Live Oak
- Several shrubs and other plants
Recently, a new pest was reported attacking ficus trees and hedges in Miami (through Palm Beach), Florida and has been identified as the fig whitefly, or Singhiella simplex.
The biology of the fig 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.
Sprialing Whitefly 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 spiraling whitefly has been most commonly found infesting weeping fig.
Spiral Whitefly Signs
In addition to feeding on the nutrient in the leaf tissue, the rugose whitefly will produce a very sticky secretion known as “honeydew”. This sticky film is produced in such high quantities that it drips of the leaves and falls onto whatever lies beneath the canopy of the tree. This honeydew will start to appear on decks, driveways, cars, patio furniture, the pool and even the roof and walls of the home. The honeydew will then start to turn black as sooty mold forms on the surface. Ants are also highly attracted to honeydew as a primary food source.
- White spirals and buildup of white waxy substance on leaves
- Plants can get infested and make the majority of leaves turn white.
- They produce Honeydew which leads to Sooty Mold and this turns things black like the tree trunk and anything beneath the tree*
Whitefly In Your Pool
If the whitefly get in the pool, they will impact the filter and chlorine levels. The pool will start to turn green as the chlorine will no longer be able to stabilize the organic material in the water.
How You Can Help
Minimize insect infestations with these suggestions from the United States Department of Agriculture Systematic Entomology Laboratory:
- Visually inspect your plants.
- Provide ideal growing conditions. Nothing keeps insects at bay like a healthy plant.
- Destroy old crop residues that harbor whitefly infestations unless large numbers of natural enemies of whitefly are detected. Destroy all crop residues infected with virus.
- Plant resistant varieties where available.
- Plant earlier in the spring and late in the fall to avoid high infestations late in the season and use short-season varieties.
- Avoid planting next to crops infested with whitefly and avoid carry-over from infested plant material.
- Delay planting fall vegetables until whitefly migration has diminished: Use physical barriers during heavy migration or plant tolerant crops during these periods.
- Adopt spraying methods that improve coverage, especially underneath leaves.
Spiraling Whitefly Treatment
A preventative treatment is highly recommended because your tree or palm will get infested. Whitefly treatments will give immediate protection and with systemic treatments it will protect up to several months. Annual preventative treatments are recommended.
Fig Whitefly Treatment
Fig whitefly treatments are needed to protect your ficus hedge from loosing its leaves. The fig whitefly develops such high populations that it causes significant defoliation to ficus and cause branch die back and eventual death of the plant. This can be prevented!
Rugose Spiraling Whitefly Treatment
We can treat the fig whitefly by applying a systemic insecticide to the root system of the ficus hedge. We will also include a surfactant to help penetrate compacted soil and a soluble nutrient to promote recovery and new growth.
Spiral Whitefly Treatment Cost
Fig whitefly treatments applications are recommended to be done 2-4 times a year; it is better to prevent the fig whitefly from re-infestation. Each time the ficus hedge gets fig whitefly infestation and sustains damage, it becomes more stressed and will take longer to recover.
Photo courtesy CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39889