White Fly Information
The Ficus Whitefly
A pest known as the whitefly has attacked Ficus and many other trees and hedges in South Florida. The City battles whitefly infestations on City-owned properties by spraying, injecting, and drenching infested specimens and through public education.
Whiteflies are small, winged insects that typically feed on the underside of leaves with their needle-like mandibles. Whiteflies can seriously injure plants by sucking juices from them, causing wilting, yellowing, stunting, leaf drop, or even plant death. The leaves of trees infested with whiteflies begin to turn yellow before the leaves drop from the plant.
The adult white fly resembles a very small moth with a yellow body and white wings. Eggs are laid on the underside of the leaves and hatch into a crawler stage. The crawler wanders around the leaf until they begin to feed.
Whiteflies are commonly found on Ficus benjamina but have been seen on all types of plants and trees, including black olive.
Although your tree or hedge may appear to be dying after losing most of its leaves, it may still be alive. Monitor your plants for early signs of infestation. It will be easier to manage the pest before the population builds causing major damage. If hedges and trees are trimmed, remove the clippings from the property to reduce the chance of spreading the insects.
Insecticidal soap or oil sprays (oil sprays cannot be used in temperatures above 80 degrees) may be an effective method of control for homeowners. Thorough coverage of the undersides of the leaves is especially important. It will also be necessary to repeat this application every seven to ten days.
The use of other insecticides may be necessary to control this pest, but it is important to use products that will not be detrimental to the natural enemies. Products such as Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control (imidacloprid) and Spectracide Tree and Insect Control may be applied to the soil. Other products available for homeowner use include Ortho Bug-B-Gon (bifenthrin), Bayer Advanced Rose and Flower Insect Killer (cyfluthrin), Sevin (carbaryl), Malathion, and others. These products may also be harmful to the natural enemies of the whitefly so consult with your gardener or a retailer that sells these products. All of the above products can be found at garden centers and hardware stores.
Insecticides may be very useful in whitefly control because as they can be applied to drench soil and many times provide longer lasting control. These insecticides include the neonicotinoids (Celero (clothianadin), Flagship/Meridian (thiamethoxam), Marathon/Merit (imidacloprid), and dinotefuran (Safari)). These products also tend to be less disruptive to the whitefly's natural enemies. After drenching, apply foliar sprays as needed if whiteflies are present.
Using different insecticides is critical in controlling whiteflies, especially if they have developed a resistance to a specific insecticide. For most effective treatment, trim plants prior to application. When applying insecticides, always follow the product's label directions and use protective gear as necessary, or have a licensed individual apply the chemical.
Additional information may be obtained by contacting the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service in Davie at 954.357.5270 or go to the following website, FLWhitefly.org.