The whitefly in South Florida

The whitefly in South Florida has been infecting the Ficus Hedges known as the Weeping fig or Ficus benjamina.

Ficus White Fly Epidemic

A new species of ornamental pest has invaded Southern Florida causing havoc to one of the most prominently utilized landscape materials in the surrounding area. The “Fig Whitefly” or “Ficus Whitefly” as it is commonly referred to, is a small whitefly that resides on the underneath of ficus leaves draining the plant of its nutrients until its certain demise.

  • Ficus Whitefly

The infestations are so populous that defoliation occurs rapidly with little signs of the initial symptoms. Different from our common Whitefly, Singhiella simplex is a host specific species that only infests the very popular Ficus ornamental, Ficus benjamina and Ficus bengalensis. Ficus Trees are one of the largest pieces of landscaping used in South Florida and Ficus hedges are certainly the most extensively used ornamental as a privacy alternative to expensive fencing and can virtually be located around every corner. In the event that these whitefly insects are not treated immediately homeowners and communities can be assured that the infestation will continue to spread to new plants as the others lose their aesthetic appeal and will soon die. First symptoms can be noticed as a chlorotic streaking occurs in the leaves (Figure 1). In severe situations defoliation occurs and if allowed to continue death will soon follow (Figure 2). Ficus hedges can easily be tested for these infestations by running their hands through the leaves and observing the small flies swarming about. About ¼ inch in size these flies are hardly noticeable and may look like small pieces of white debris floating about when interrupted. During their resting periods Ficus Whitefly can be located on the underneath of leaves along with their eggs.
Figure 1: Early Stage Leaf Symptoms

Photo BY: Britta Turney

Other species of ficus that are hosts:
banyan trees (altissima and F. bengalensis)
strangler fig (aurea)
Cuban laurel (microcarpa)
banana-leaf fig (maclellandii) Defoliated hedge
fiddle-leaf fig (lyrata)

This species of whitefly may eventually be found on other species of ficus.

Figure 2: Mid-Stage Defoliation
Photo BY: Britta Turney

ficus whitefly

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