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Whitefly attacking plants in South Florida

Posted at 7:29 AM, Jul 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-12 08:53:47-04

The whitefly is at it again, attacking our plants and trees. For some it’s costing them thousands to get rid of them.

The nasty little critters officially called the Q-biotype whitefly is now in eight Florida counties, according to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Services. The whitefly is major invasive species that made their way to Florida from South America.

The fly is especially attracted to hibiscus plants.

UF IFAS says the whitefly started making a comeback this April when it was found around homes in Palm Beach County. It has been found in Martin, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

The good news is that you can do something about it, but according to experts it's going to take a lot.

"You can never completely stop it because your neighbors have it and until everybody else starts to treat it, then you all have the same problem."

Researchers with UF/IFAS are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and FDACS to manage the whitefly. The following measures are recommended to control the spread of Q-biotype whitefly:

• Homeowners who suspect they have a whitefly infestation should contact their UF/IFAS Extension county office. Office locations may be found here.  

• For identification purposes, infested leaves and dead insect specimens should be brought to local Extension offices. Wrap in a dry paper towel and place in a seal-able plastic bag and then in an envelope. Freezing the specimen overnight before transport is highly recommended. Live insects should not be transported.

• The collection information should be included with the sample. Date, location, what type of vegetation is affected, number of suspected whiteflies, and any information about whether a pesticide has been used on the plant, is helpful information to managing the pest.  For steps on how to submit a sample to FDACS DPI, click here

• Because new populations have built up resistance to chemicals, it is recommended that suspected whitefly infestations be confirmed before chemically treating the insects, as it may be needless to spray pesticides.

• Landscapers and pest control operators should inspect for signs of whitefly pests, communicate with neighboring properties and homeowners associations, employ good management and growing practices, and implement whitefly management guidelines, available here. 

• Nurseries that suspect whitefly infestations should contact Cindy McKenzie atcindy.mckenzie@ars.usda.gov. She will only report positive finds to the county level. Growers will not be identified.

Please also check out the UF/IFAS whitefly management program
 

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