Serving Broward County and Palm Beach County
Looking for reliable whitefly control in south Florida? Since 1956, Petri Pest Control has provided pest control and lawn care services you can trust in Broward and Palm Beach County.
Are Whiteflies a Serious Threat to South Florida Yards?
Over the last few years two new pest problems have emerged in South Florida. The Ficus or Fig Whitefly was the first to emerge and continues to be a serious threat to ficus hedges and trees that are left untreated. In March of 2009 a larger whitefly was found on gumbo limbo trees in Miami-Dade County and has since spread to various areas of Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
The ficus whitefly can cause significant damage, and potentially kill, ficus hedges and banyan trees that are left untreated. Although ficus appears to be the main host plant there has been reports of this whitefly attacking sea grape trees and azaleas as well. It has been observed that the ficus whiteflies are at their most active in the late summer and early fall but they can strike at any time of year.
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Ficus and Gumbo Limbo Spiraling Whitefly
Petri Pest Control can wipe out whitefly infestations throughout southern Florida.
Petri uses a combination of both a root drenching, a topical liquid application, and granular systemic insecticides to eliminate ficus whitefly. The choice of application is based on the time of year. For the ficus whitefly a full spraying of the plant is recommended for immediate control followed by either a drenching of the root base and/or an application of a granular systemic product applied to the root base to provide long lasting residual protection. This treatment process can provide up to 6 months of protection and follow up treatments are recommended throughout the year. It is very important that this treatment process begin either preventatively or soon after whiteflies or the damage they cause is noticed. Once ficus hedge damage is too severe they may not fully recover.
The gumbo limbo spiraling whitefly has a much broader range of host plants including g gumbo limbo, black olive, mango, Brazilian pepper, cocoplum, wax myrtle, live oak and a variety of palm trees including areca, coconut, date palms, and many more.
Much is still being learned about the gumbo limbo spiraling whitefly. What is known is that the adult whiteflies are 3 to 10 times the size of other types of whitefly and move much slower.
Adults congregate on the underside of leaves to feed and reproduce. The female lays her eggs in a spiral pattern on the leaves and also deposits a white, waxy substance on the eggs. The crawler stage that hatches from the eggs starts to fee with its needle-like mouthparts. The crawler will molt and go through many stages. It is believed that it is the immature stages of this pest, and not the adults, that cause the most damage.
Damage to Plants: The ficus whitefly typically feed on the underside of leaves and use their needle-like mouthparts to pierce the plant and suck juices from them causing wilting, yellowing, stunting, leaf drop, and in extreme cases death. The gumbo limbo spiraling whitefly’s most noticeable symptoms are the white, waxy material that covers the leaves, the tremendous amount of “honeydew” that is produced, and the black sooty mold growth that sticks to the honeydew. Although the actual effects on plants are still being learned it is a fact that plant decline, defoliation and branch dieback can certainly result if left untreated.
Whitefly Treatment FAQs
Whiteflies are a common pest that affects garden, agricultural, and greenhouse plants in South Florida. Small, winged insects, resembling moths, whiteflies are covered with a waxy white powder, and despite their name, they are neither moths or flies. Whiteflies belong to the order of insects known as “true bugs,” and are most closely related to scale insects, mealybugs, and aphids. Whiteflies cause damage to ornamental plants in South Florida such as Ficus trees and flowering plants by extracting the nutrients in plant tissue with their hair-like, piercing-sucking mouthparts. Because whiteflies lay their eggs on the underside of plant leaves where those maturing whiteflies may spend their entire lives, these elusive pests can go unnoticed until leaves start to turn yellow or take on a transparent look. Because they are difficult to detect and control, recurring whitefly infestations can do significant damage to landscape plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
Whiteflies can be difficult to control and recurring infestations can significantly damage plants. In South Florida, several factors can cause whitefly infestations, but the first line of defense should be to prevent whiteflies by:
- Inspecting the underside of leaves when you are choosing ornamental plants to add to your landscape.
- Keeping new plants away from your other plants for some time until you can be sure whiteflies aren’t present.
- Spraying your plants early in the morning or in the evening with a garden hose to dislodge any whiteflies that may be on your plants.
In the last few years, we have seen an increase in whitefly resistance to many pesticides making control much more challenging. An increase rotation of different types of pesticides and more frequent applications is now recommended to gain control of whiteflies in South Florida.
Factors that can cause whitefly infestations in South Florida landscapes include:
Long periods of dry, hot weather may require that you water your plants more often in the evening or early in the morning to avoid dehydration in the hot summer months. Water stress makes plants more susceptible to attack by whiteflies. Additionally, hot weather makes conditions favorable for whitefly reproduction, leading to an increase in the number of insects. Along with drought conditions causing favorable conditions for whitefly populations to reproduce, plant leaves and stems provide a water source for insects with piercing, sucking mouthparts.
- Lack of predators
While drought conditions increase whitefly populations, these conditions do not favor the development of natural whitefly predators, such as ladybugs, lacewings, spiders, dragonflies, beetles, mites, and parasitized wasps. With fewer whitefly predators, more whiteflies are produced to attack your plants.
- Insecticide Use
Broad-spectrum insecticides do more harm than good. Instead of only eliminating whiteflies, many of these commercial insecticides can’t target particular types of bugs, wiping out all insects, including beneficial whitefly predators. Eliminating whitefly predators compounds whitefly infestations further, allowing infestations to flourish. More importantly, pesticides can kill crucial pollinators, such as bees, which is not only bad for your garden’s ecosystem, the lack of pollinators affects the global food supply at large. According to the National Gardening Association, a simple solution of water and dish soap can help control and deter whiteflies.
- Nitrogen Fertilizer
As much as your plants like nitrogen-rich fertilizers, whiteflies like your nitrogen-rich plants, as well. Excessive nitrogen fertilization can cause frequent infestations. While nitrogen can boost the vitality of your plants, over-fertilizing your garden can attract whiteflies, leading to more frequent infestations.
Is your South Florida garden suffering from a whitefly infestation? Do not wait to address any suspected whitefly activity because they will quickly spread throughout your yard and into those of your neighbors. Our whitefly experts at Petri Pest Control Services are standing by to address your whitefly treatment concerns in Broward County and Palm Beach County.
Broad-spectrum insecticides that kill whiteflies are not recommended for use on your whitefly-infected plants because these insecticides also kill natural whitefly predators, such as ladybugs or lady beetles, parasitic wasps, and spiders. Alternatives to broad-spectrum insecticides include:
- Imidacloprid, a low toxicity product designed to affect insect neurotransmitters, has been proven effective in treating whiteflies. Mixed with water and applied to the base of thirsty plants, the roots absorb Imidacloprid internally. Used annually, following the manufacturer’s instructions, Imidacloprid should not be applied one month before or during plants’ blooming cycle, to protect honeybees from exposure to this product in their nectar and/or pollen.
- Insecticidal soaps, readily available on the market, are applied to the undersides of leaves and can be effective on whiteflies and non-toxic to beneficial insects that prey on whiteflies.
- Horticultural plant-based oils, such as neem oil, sprayed on the undersides of leaves in the morning or evening can also be effective in suffocating whiteflies on contact while minimizing adverse effects on whitefly predators.
Whitefly infestations are notoriously troublesome for South Florida homeowners who have tried to remedy the situation on their own. When trying to kill whitefly, it is best to rely on an experienced pest control expert, such as Petri Pest Control Services. Our knowledgeable techs are well-versed in the pros and cons of various treatment options and will work hard to ensure your complete satisfaction. Contact us today and we’ll schedule a visit to your whitefly-infested home garden in Broward or Palm Beach County.
Whitefly infestations are difficult to get rid of for several reasons. For one thing, broad-spectrum insecticides are not recommended, as these products tend to eliminate not only the whiteflies but the lady beetles (ladybugs), spiders, and parasitic wasps that live in your yard and prey on whiteflies. Monitoring your plants for whiteflies is the first line of defense when dealing with these and other garden insects, such as scale, aphids, and thrips. In the morning, or at dusk, spray your plants with a garden hose. If you see a cloud of whiteflies rising from your plants, pest control experts recommend spraying the plants as vigorously as possible with water to dislodge whitefly nymphs and eggs on the underside of the leaves of your plants. After you’ve determined that whiteflies are infesting your plants, your best bet is to contact an experienced pest control expert.
However, some homeowners have found temporary success with a variety of the below.
- Neem Oil – Using natural products, such as neem or other plant-based products, may suffocate whiteflies on contact. A mixture of dish soap and neem oil applied to the undersides of leaves can help reduce whiteflies.
- Vacuum – Some DIY homeowners suggest vacuuming the affected tree branches and leaves early in the morning when the cooler temperatures cause insects to move more slowly. You will need to dispose of the vacuum bag in an air-tight bag.
- Beneficial insects – Importing natural predators, such as lady beetles, otherwise known as ladybugs, can help get rid of whiteflies, as just one tiny Delphastus can consume more than 150 whitefly eggs daily. Tiny parasitic wasps, such as Encarsia formosa either kill whitefly nymphs immediately and eat them or lay eggs inside whitefly nymphs. Once the wasp eggs start feeding on whitefly nymphs internally, the nymphs turn black and stop feeding on plants. The average homeowner would not be able to do this.
- Imidacloprid – A low-toxicity product, Imidacloprid, mimics nicotine, affecting whitefly nervous systems, causing damage at the cellular level. Applied once a year, to thirsty plants, Imidacloprid seeps into plants through their roots. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and avoid applying Imidacloprid during the period one month prior to or during the time when plants bloom, in order to protect honeybees.
If the idea of getting rid of your whitefly infestation on your own seems a little daunting, the techs at Petri Pest Control Services are standing by to help. Call us today and we’ll send over our whitefly experts.
Whitefly Control in South Florida
Serving Broward County and Palm Beach County