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Ficus and Rugose Spiraling White Fly

Most Coral Springs homeowners are familiar with the little white flies that have taken over their Ficus hedges. This pest, known as the Ficus White Fly, was first noticed in Coral Springs in 2009 and has since led to the widespread defoliation of untreated Ficus plants throughout the City.

Tips for white fly treatment
You should treat your Ficus regardless of whether it has symptoms or not. By the time defoliation has taken place, the fly has already been on your plants for three to six months.

Spraying the plant with insecticide is less effective and more expensive than using a root drench.  When insecticide is sprayed onto a plant, it is only effective for 2-3 weeks and would need to be applied monthly in order for it to be useful. This is not recommended for financial and environmental reasons. In addition to killing White Fly, you are also killing any beneficial insects that are eating White Fly.

The root drench can be effective for up to a year and targets White Fly without killing beneficial insects. The introduction of beneficial White Fly predators such as Lady Bugs or Praying Mantis instead of or in addition to systemic chemical treatment is an option to be considered. Lady Bugs are available for purchase at some local nurseries. In order to maximize the effectiveness of this approach please follow the instruction on the packaging carefully.

If you are thinking about replacing your Ficus hedges, think again. Even entirely defoliated Ficus hedges can recover if treated quickly and on an ongoing basis. A one-time treatment will not be sufficient to allow the plants to recover.

Rugose Spiraling White Fly: A New Threat
Since January of 2012, the Rugose Spiraling White Fly (RSWF) has also been detected in Coral Springs. The RSWF has a much broader host plant range than the Ficus White Fly.  So far, it has been found on Gumbo Limbo, Brazilian Beauty Leaf, Coconut Palm, Christmas Palm, Cocoplum and other ornamental plants.

The first signs of a RSWF infestation are white spirals on the underside of the plants leaves. Eventually this leads to an accumulation of a white, waxy substance spread throughout the plant. In the next stage of infestation, the insects’ excrement, which is sticky (referred to as honeydew), begins forming all over the plant and allows black sooty mold to develop. The sticky honeydew can drip to the ground below or cover anything under the tree such as cars, pool decks or patio furniture. The good news regarding RSWF, if there is any, is that the damage caused to the plants does not seem to be as devastating as the Ficus White Fly. In extreme cases, some defoliation can occur but the plants are able to recover on their own.

Treatment for RSWF is essentially identical to the treatment described for Ficus White Fly. When dealing with an infested large tree it is nearly impossible to effectively spray the entire canopy. In these cases, a systemic pesticide is the only practical solution. When it comes to treating large trees, a root drench or injecting a systemic insecticide directly into the trunk of the tree is quicker and more effective, but it should only be done by an experienced professional.

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