• Rugose Spiraling Whitefly

  • The Rugose Spiraling Whitefly is an intrusive pest in the South Florida landscape that has risen to epic proportion. Below are some University driven Factoids about the insect and its control.

  • What are Whiteflies?

  • They are small, winged insects that belong to the Order Hemiptera which also includes aphids, scales, and mealybugs. These insects typically feed on the underside of leaves with their “needle-like” mouthparts. Whiteflies can seriously injure host plants by sucking nutrients from the plant causing wilting, yellowing, stunting, leaf drop, or even death. There are more than 75 different whiteflies reported in Florida.
  • Host Plants:

  • 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 (Bursera simaruba), Calophyllum species, black olive (Bucida buceras), copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana), broadleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco), Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), live oak (Quercus virginiana) and mango (Mangifera indica). It has also been reported on several palms which include areca palm (Dypsis lutescens), Veitchia species, and coconut (Cocos nucifera). Additional hosts are likely to be added to the current list.

  • Plant Damage:

  • The most noticeable symptoms of an infestation of this whitefly is 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.

  • Below are pictures of the Spiraling Whitefly damage

  • The Mess!!!

  • These insects produce copious amounts of honeydew, the liquid waste it excretes. This honeydew is then colonized by a black fungus which is referred to as sooty mold. The sticky honeydew and layers of sooty mold can accumulate on objects beneath infested trees and is one reason people are perturbed, especially in parking lots with infested shade trees over parked cars. You can even feel the mist like honeydew drifting down on your face. Pool companies are having a difficult time keeping pools, which are beneath the canopies of infested trees, from turning green. Apparently pool algae thrives on the honeydew components. Another aggravation is this pest has so many plants it will feed on. Some of its 80 hosts are: gumbo limbo, bucida (“black-olive”), white bird of paradise, banana, Norfolk Island pine, periwinkle, cocoplum, buttonwood, mango, live oak, coconut, areca, foxtail and Christmas palms. They will feed on royal palms but not thrive.

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