Whitefly – FAQs
Whitefly - What is it?
There are 75 species of whitefly. They are small, winged insects similar to aphids, scales, and mealybugs. These insects typically feed on the underside of leaves with their "needle-like" mouth parts. This can cause host plants to wilt, yellow, stunt, and leaf drop. For more information see www.flwhitefly.org.
Whitefly - What plants are affected?
Plants affected by whitefly range from palms to woody ornamentals and fruits. Thus far, gumbo limbo, banana, black olive, copperleaf, broadleaf arrowhead, cocoplum, Brazilian pepper, wax myrtle, live oak, and mango are known to have been affected in South Florida. Affected plants have a white waxy, sticky material that covers the leaves and also excessive sooty mold.
Whitefly - How will I know if my plants are affected?
Whitefly excrete a clear, sticky liquid called "honeydew." Honeydew does not harm your plants; however, black sooty mold will grow where there is honeydew. Honeydew can be messy and may potentially damage the finish on cars or other painted objects if not washed off.
Whitefly - Is an infestation harmful to my trees and shrubs?
The actual affect of an infestation on the health of a plant is unknown; however, whiteflies in general can cause plant decline, defoliation and branch dieback but are not generally lethal to the host plant.
Whitefly - How can infestations be controlled?
Monitor plants for early signs of an infestation because it is easier to manage the pest before it builds to high populations. If you have an infestation on a tree, be sure to search nearby trees as well because this whitefly feeds on many types of trees. Both biological (natural enemies such as ladybugs) and chemical (insecticides) methods are used to control this whitefly. Washing plants off with soap and water, horticultural oil or insecticidal soap can be effective tools to help manage whiteflies for small infestations or small plants. For it to be effective, you must remove the immature stages and eggs from the leaves with the wash. Various treatment methods are used to control whitefly. The County Extension Agent recommends a systemic application method of control.
For more information on control of larger infestations, contact the Manatee County Extension Office, (941) 722-4524, or the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (IFAS) website.
Whitefly - What other conditions have similar affects on my plants?
Rapid change in temperatures and other environmental conditions, such as drought, can cause leafdrop on plants.
Whitefly - What should I do if I suspect my plants are infested?
Contact your local County Extension Agent to confirm what type of insect may be affecting your plants. Proper identification of the infestation will best determine what action you should take. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) publication "Rugose Spiraling Whitefly also known as Gumbo Limbo Spiraling Whitefly a New Whitefly in South Florida, A Guide for Homeowners" is a good source of information.
Whitefly - Where can I get more information?
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture (IFAS)
Rugose Spiraling Whitefly publications