Spiraling Whitefly Control West Palm Beach

In March, 2009, a whitefly was collected in Miami‐Dade County from gumbo limbo. This was the first report of this insect on the U.S. continent and it is believed to originate from Central America. Since the initial find, there have been numerous other reports, most in West Palm Beach and surrounding areas.

NOTE: This is not the same whitefly (Ficus whitefly) that is currently causing defoliation and branch dieback of Ficus in south Florida.This whitefly appears to have a very broad host range from palms to woody ornamentals and fruits. Thus far, it has been seen on gumbo limbo Calophyllum species, black olive, copperleaf broadleaf arrowhead, coco plum, Brazilian pepper, wax myrtle, live oak and mango. It has also been reported on several palms which include areca palm, Veitchia species, and coconut. Additional hosts are likely to be added to the current list.

Symptoms of Infestation

  • The most noticeable symptoms of an infestation of this whitefly are the abundance of the white, waxy material covering the leaves and also excessive sooty mold. Like other similar insects, these whiteflies will produce “honeydew”, a sugary substance, which causes the growth of sooty mold.
  • The actual effect of an infestation on the health of a plant is unknown; however, whiteflies in general can cause plant decline, defoliation and branch dieback.
  • Monitor plants for early signs of an infestation because it will be easier to manage the pest before it builds to high populations and causes major damage. If you have an infestation on a tree, be sure to search nearby trees as well because this whitefly feeds on many types of trees.

Treatment of Gumbo Limbo Spiraling Whiteflies

  • It is extremely important to use the appropriate insecticides, methods, and timing in order to get the best control with the least amount of detriment to the natural enemies or the environment.
  • Contact insecticides are typically sprayed on the foliage or other infested parts of the plant or in the soil for soil‐dwelling insects. Depending on the insecticide, either the insect must come into contact with the insecticide or must feed on the plant with the insecticide.
  • Spray coverage must be thorough to get the best results, particularly in cases like this when the insect is primarily on the underside of the leaves. In general, foliar sprays are active for a few weeks and usually require more than one application. However, some of these products can be very useful for quick knockdown which can be very important with bad infestations.
  • A systemic insecticide can be applied directly to the infested plant or to the soil. Soil applications include drenching the soil, spreading a granular formulation, or burying a pellet. Some products can also be applied as a basal trunk spray or injection into the trunk.
  • Systemic insecticides can also be sprayed on the foliage, but often provide longer control when applied to the soil or trunk. However, it is not recommended to use the same insecticide (active ingredient) on the leaves that you use in the soil or on the trunk.

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