Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Spiral Whitefly Invasion - A New Pest in Town

As if it isn’t bad enough that our ficus hedges have been under attack by the fig or ficus whitefly (see Whiteflies Leave Wide Path of Defoliation, Feb. 14, 2012), now we have to contend with a new whitefly to our area, the rugose spiraling whitefly. This newest of more than 75 whitefly species found in Florida is of particular concern in Palm Beach County because of their voracious appetite for your trees and plants. Well established along the eastern portions of the county, they are now making their way west.

Do You Have These in Your Landscape?
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Coconut Palm
  • Bismark Palm
  • Pygmy Date Palm (Roebelenii’s)
  • Gumbo Limbo
  • Pandanum (Screw-Pine Palm), to name a few

If so, this new spiral whitefly will attack all these palms, plants and more. It is completely different than the ficus whitefly found on shrubs. But before you panic, the University of Florida IFAS Extension says that unlike its cousin the ficus whitefly, the rugose spiraling whitefly hasn’t caused severe plant damage, such as plant death or severe branch die-back.

Signs and Symptoms

The most noticeable symptoms of an infestation of this whitefly is an abundance of white, waxy material that covers leaves and also excessive sooty mold. This white, waxy material is used to coat the insect’s eggs, which are laid in a spiral pattern on the underside of leaves. The whitefly also produces a “honeydew” that is a sugary substance that causes the growth of the sooty mold.

The “honeydew” can accumulate on cars, pool decks and patio furniture from infested trees overhead. It can also turn pool water green and it is recommended that you seek help from a pool care professional, or you could take a water sample to a pool supply store for analysis.

Remedies may include super chlorination and backwash of the pool filters. However, an algaecide or shock treatment using products that contain sodium bromide or potassium mononpersulfate may be needed to oxidize the organic matter in the water.

Cures and Questions To Ask

Fortunately, the “honeydew” doesn’t damage paint and along with the sooty mold will disappear once the insect is brought under control. For small plants, you can wash off the affected areas with insecticidal soap or oil. Or, apply an insecticide to the soil at the base of the plants, which should prevent whiteflies for about eight months. Never use poisons on plants that produce fruit.

For larger plants, it may be necessary to call a professional. Professionals have access to a broader range of products, and are required to be trained and licensed to apply them. The University of Florida IFAS Extension recommends that when you select a pest control company for whitefly management, you should ask about the products they use and how they use them, such as a neonicotinoid soil drench or granular (active) ingredient applied to the soil in the early spring. Or trunk application, which includes concentrated trunk spray or injection.

You’ll also want to ask how to water your plants after the soil has been treated. They must receive adequate water for healthy growth. Also, adequate watering helps ensure that the pesticide moves into the plants via the roots.

What about foliar sprays? They may be used to supplement and should only be sprayed on areas of heavy infestation or where defoliation is apparent.

Finally, ask if the professional is following the soil treatment rates specifically recommended by the manufacturer. The answer should be that they are following the label instructions.

The specially trained professionals at Insect Protection Pest Control have a host of solutions to take care of not only a whitefly infestation but almost any other pest problem you may have both inside and outside of your home or business. Call them today for a FREE consultation.

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