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whitefly

White Fly Management

Whiteflies are a menace throughout South Florida. Infestations plague commercial farms as well as our homes; they can devastate entire crops and ruin the ornamental plants we work so hard to maintain. Whiteflies, unfortunately, attack some of the most important plants in Florida, including orange, lemon, mango and grapefruit trees; avocado, tomato, cucumber and fig plants; and ficus, coconut palms and hibiscus. Studies indicate that whiteflies perpetrate hundreds of millions of dollars of crop and plant damage per year.

Entomologists have identified over 1500 species of whitefly. We see only a few in Florida, but they do extensive damage. Five species are responsible for the harm to the Treasure Coast and its neighbours:

• Bondar’s Nesting Whitefly
• Rugose Spiraling Whitefly
• Fig Whitefly
• Giant Whitefly
• Sweet Potato Whitefly

Description, Symptoms and Detection

Whiteflies are roughly 1/16 of an inch long and look like miniature moths. They have four wings. The wings appear coated with white wax and fine white powder.

Whiteflies congregate on the underside of leaves, where they lay eggs, suck out the plant’s fluids and inject toxic saliva. The depleted leaves spot, turn yellow, silver or white, then fall off.  Given sufficient infestation, the plant dies. As they feed, whiteflies secrete honeydew, which develops a dark, sooty mold that disrupts normal photosynthesis and further starves the plant.

As if siphoning off food and effectively starving our plants were not enough, whiteflies transmit plant viruses. The American Phytopathological Society suggests that the spread of viruses represents an even greater danger than the damage whiteflies can cause by feeding. The APS reports that the ease with which whiteflies can spread disease makes the insect a serious threat to food and fiber plants worldwide. Unfortunately, this insect is also proving increasingly adaptive and resistance to methods of control. As a result, the virus problem here in Florida has grown to a point described by the Agricultural Research Service as nearly epidemic.

At NativeGreen, we have completed specialized training in whitefly management with the University of Florida and IFAS Extension programs. Whitefly control requires a professional approach, tools and supplies. Prevent further damage to your gardens; help reduce potential damage to our food crops via disease. Please contact the skilled pest management consultants at NativeGreen.