There are more than 60 species of whitefly in Florida. This memo references Besmisia tabaci Biotype Q which was recently reported by the Palm Beach Post to be a new pest infesting residential properties in Palm Beach County.
The whitefly Besmisia tabaci also known at the sweetpotato whitefly was first reported in Florida in 1889. Over the past 30 years, agricultural losses have increased worldwide due to the distribution of new and more virulent biotypes of this insect. A biotype is a group of individuals belonging to the same species which are identical in appearance but show differences in their “pathogenic character”. Currently there are more than 20 biotypes of Bemisia tabaci with the best being known biotype B+Q.
Biotype B, also called the silverleaf or poinsettia whitefly was introduced into the United States around 1985. In Florida it was a particular problem on hibiscus and poinsettias. By the 1990’s it was transmitting viruses to tomatoes and bean grown in our area and had spread to other southern states. Fortunately, it is being controlled chemically and biologically.
The first time that Biotype Q was reported in the United States was in Arizona in 2004. By 2011, it had spread to 26 states including Florida where it was found in greenhouses in 6 counties (Dade, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Orange and Suwannee). Because infestations were confined to greenhouses, the counties were not overrun by the insect. Chemical control worked. Within the Biotype Q group are variants designated as Q1, Q2, Q3 & Q4. Biotype Q1 was found on hibiscus grown in greenhouses in 5 of the 6 Florida counties that were infested. It is most likely the whitefly reported by the Palm Beach Post infesting our landscape.
Biotype Q is considered one of the worse pests in agriculture because it attacks more than 500 species of plants, thrives on these plants and transmits more than 100 plant viruses. In Florida, it has also shown to be more resistant to chemical control on tomatoes. The finding of this whitefly in our landscape is important because it has never been before been found in Palm Beach County Agriculture or our landscapes. There is great concern that the biotype will now make the jump from landscaping into agriculture. In regards to landscape, an integrated pest management program which includes scouting and chemical rotation of pesticides should provide acceptable control of the insect at this time. Anyone who sees hibiscus plants covered with whitefly should contact us so prompt treatment can be made to control the infestation and prevent it from reaching epidemic proportions on our properties.
In the summer of 2007, the insect pest “ficus whitefly” entered the United States by way of the Port of Miami. It is a small winged insect that feeds on the undersides of leaves and strips ficus hedges and trees of their foliage. The insect has spread from Miami-Dade into Broward and infested Palm Beach County in the summer of 2008. Populations began to surge again in S. Florida during the summer of 2014. If left untreated, the whitefly can defoliate a ficus within a few weeks. If properly treated the plants will probably survive, but recovery of foliage may take 4-6 months.
IPM, Inc. has been treating ficus hedges and trees and has obtained excellent control of the insect. Our program is based on recommendations from the University of Florida and the chemicals we apply are used a rates recommended by the manufacturer. We have specialized equipment to service both residential and Association properties.
In August, 2011 a new species of whitefly has been reported attacking plants in Palm Beach County. The “Spiraling” or “Gumbo Limbo” Whitefly (aleurodicus rugioperculatus), when compared to the “Ficus” Whitefly, is a relatively large and slow moving insect that lays its eggs in a spiral pattern. And rather than be specific to a single host plant as is the ficus whitefly, the spiraling whitefly attacks the majority of the plants, trees and palms we have in our yards.
The Spiraling Whitefly produces large quantities of honeydew, which in turn produces the fungus sooty mold. Vast amounts of this black, sticky, sooty mold fall from the plants into our pools and onto our cars, sidewalks, etc. This nuisance issue is a bigger problem than damage to the plants.
The insect can be controlled with certain insecticides. Soil or trunk applied insecticides can be used preventatively for long term control. Foliar applied insecticides must be used to control active infestations. In the event you are experiencing Spiral Whitefly problems or have questions concerning the insect, please contact us.