Since first reported in Florida from Miami-Dade County in 2009, Rugose Spiraling Whitefly (RSWF) has caused significant damage in the Florida landscape. When it first appeared, this invasive species was a widespread problem for homeowners, landscapers and government officials. These groups joined forces and with a collaborative rigorous effort the Rugose Spiraling Whitefly pretty much disappeared.
Up until now, there have been few areas of live activity. Because of this landowners felt like preventative measures were no longer necessary. This has allowed the RSWF to make a comeback, as live infestations have been recently discovered in several areas both Palm Beach and Broward Counties.
RSWF is a little white fly that prefers to attack Coconut Palm, Calophyllum and Gumbo Limbo Trees. It has also been found on Adonidia Palms, Black Olive Trees, Avocado Trees, Live Oak, Bird of Paradise and many others.
The RSWF makes its home on the leaf of the host plant. The female lays her eggs on the underside of the leaves in a spiral pattern and covers it with white waxy matter. Feeding by the whitefly causes stress to the plant by removing nutrients and water.
Infestation usually does not kill the host plant, but it may interfere with the normal growth. In addition, the whitefly’s honeydew excretion promotes the growth of black sooty molds which may disrupt the photosynthesis process in the plant leading to physiological disorders. Sooty mold also attracts ants and wasps that protect the whiteflies from their natural enemies. In addition, honeydew, black sticky wax, and bodies of dead whiteflies fall onto non-plant surfaces such as automobiles, patios and furniture, making a mess. The black sticky substance may also contaminate swimming pools impacting water chemistry and clogging filters. Dried sooty mold does not wash off easily and may require pressure washing.
Call Hometown Pest Control. We offer free inspections and quotes for all of your lawn and ornamental needs. As recommended by the University of Florida, we use systemic insecticides that are taken up by the root system. In most cases we recommend treatment every six months. We do not recommend just spraying the plant with an insecticide to try to solve the problem because this will knockdown the whiteflies but will typically only provide a few weeks of control. The University of Florida has a website at http://www.flwhitefly.org.
*Eggs of rugose spiraling whitefly, Aleurodicus rugioperculatus Martin,on palm frond (left and bottom) and white bird of paradise leaf (right). Upper two photographs by Vivek Kumar, University of Florida. Lower photograph by Ian Stocks, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry.