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PEST ALERT . . . . . . . . .
The Ficus (Fig) Whitefly Singhiella simplex (Singh) (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae):
Is a New Exotic Whitefly Found on Ficus Benjamina Species in South Florida

The Ficus Whitefly – A New Pest in South Florida

Introduction: Recently, a new pest was reported attacking ficus trees and hedges
in Miami, Florida. This pest was identified as the fig whitefly, Singhiella simplex. Whiteflies are small, winged insects that belong to the Order Hemiptera which also includes aphids scales and mealy bugs. These insects 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.

Description and Damage: The leaves on ficus infested with whiteflies begin to turn yellow before the leaves are dropped from the plant. Ficus without their leaves are one of the most obvious symptoms of a whitefly infestation. This whitefly has been most commonly found infesting weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) but has also been seen on F.altissima, F.bengalensis (also called “banyan tree”), F. microcarpa, and F. maclellandii in Miami. Weeping figs are commony used as hedges but also grow as trees. Other hosts include the strangler fig (F. aurea), Cuban laurel (F.microcarpa), fiddle-leaf fig (F.lyrata) and banana-leaf fig
(F. macllandii). This whitefly may eventually be found on other species of ficus.

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. 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.

This pest is now infesting Ficus Benjamina in Broward county. If you have Ficus Benjamina plants or hedges, we recommend inspecting them weekly because plant replacement is extremely costly. If leaves are turning yellow and dropping, have them inspected by a professional. If it is Ficus Whitefly, it is recommended to start treatments immediately to save the plants.

Some Samples of how the whitefly can damage your plants.

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