Whiteflies and Ficus Damage
There is a new pest attacking Ficus trees and hedges in Palm Beach. This pest was identified as the Whitefly. They are small, winged insects which typically feed on the underside of leaves with their needle-like mouthparts. Whiteflies can seriously injure host plants by sucking juices from them causing wilting, yellowing, stunting, leaf drop, or even death. The leaves of Ficus trees infested with whiteflies will yellow before the leaves are dropped from the plant.
- If the foliage is disturbed the small, white gnat-like adult whiteflies can be seen flying from the foliage. The adult whitefly resembles a very small moth with a yellow body and white wings with a faint grey band in the middle of the wings.
- Immature stages (eggs and nymphs) can be found primarily on the underside of the leaves. Prior to adult emergence, the nymphs are tan to light green discs with red eyes.
- The underside of infested leaves look like they are dotted with small, silver or white spots which are actually the empty “skin” of the pupae after the adult emerges.
- Monitor your Ficus plants for early signs of an infestation; it will be easier to manage the pest before it builds to high populations and causes major damage.
- Defoliation usually occurs after the whiteflies have been there for several generations. Also, if infested trees or hedges are trimmed, either leave the clippings on the property or if removing, bag the clippings to reduce the chance of spreading the insects. If clippings are being transported in a truck, be sure to either bag them or cover these clippings with a tarp.
- Although the eggs and early stages of the whitefly on fallen leaves will die, the last nymphal stage of the whitefly can likely survive, emerge into an adult and attack more Ficus trees or hedges.