Recently, a new pest was reported attacking ficus plants in Miami, Florida when landscapers and nurserymen began to observe mass defoliation (leaf loss) of these varieties. This pest was identified as the fig whitefly, Singhiella simplex, and is new to Palm Beach County. This whitefly has been most commonly found infesting weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) but has also been seen on other varieties. Whiteflies typically feed on the underside of leaves with their "needle-like" mouthparts. They can seriously injure host plants by sucking juices from them. The leaves of ficus plants infested with whiteflies will turn yellow as defoliation begins. Ficus plants without their leaves is the most obvious symptom of a whitefly infestation.
If the foliage is disturbed the small, white gnat-like adult whiteflies can be seen flying from the foliage. They resemble flying dandruff as they are only 1/16th of an inch in length. Unfortunately, they are virtually invisible from more than a few feet away. For this reason, our experience so far has been to spray infested areas only after defoliation has begun.
Spraying usually saves the plants, but does not prevent defoliation. Leaf loss can only be minimized or even prevented with the application of a systemic pesticide into the root zone. From there the ficus will take the pesticide up into its branches and leaves. Within 6 to 10 weeks it becomes toxic to any whitefly that tries to feed on it. This protection will last up to four months. We are currently providing this optional form of whitefly control. Please call or email us for prompt details regarding this service.