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GWAA

The Garden Writers Association


Last Update 08/29/12
Florida Insects

 Singhiella simplex (Singh)

Fig Whitefly


Defoliated Ficus hedge, Lake Worth, Florida.

An exotic species of Whitefly said to be a native of Burma, China and India and first discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2007 is spreading through Florida like wildfire and defoliating ficus trees and hedges along the way.

 

Identification

The adult Fig Whitefly is tiny (about 1mm long), has a yellow-colored body and wings that are white with a faint grey band towards the middle of the wing. Immature stages (eggs, nymphs and pupae) can be found on the top and underside of leaves. The pupae are small tan to light green discs with red eyes measuring about 1.3 mm long and 1 mm wide.

Adult Fig Whiteflies, click image to enlarge.

Adult Fig Whiteflies

Adult Fig Whiteflies, click image to enlarge.

The leaves of ficus trees infested with whiteflies begin to turn yellow before the leaves are dropped from the plant. Ficus trees 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. Weeping figs are commony used as hedges but are also grown as trees. Other hosts for Singhiella simplex (Singh)include the strangler fig (F. aurea), Cuban laurel (F. microcarpa), fiddle-leaf fig (F. lyrata) and banana-leaf fig (F. macllandii). The Fig Whitefly may eventually feed on other species of ficus.

 

Eggs, nymphs and pupae on ficus leaf. Click Image to enlarge.

Tiny spider feeding on adult Singhiella simplex (Singh). Click Image to enlarge.

Nymphs, pupae and shed skins on ficus leaf. Click Image to enlarge.

Spider feeding on adult Singhiella simplex (Singh). Click Image to enlarge.

If the foliage of an infested plant is disturbed the small, white gnat-like adult whiteflies can be seen flying from the foliage like a faint cloud of white dust particles.

 

Life Cycle

Eggs are laid on the underside of leaves and hatch into a crawler stage. The crawler wanders around the leaf until it begins to feed. From this point until they emerge as adults, they are immobile and remain in the same place on the plant. These feeding, non-mobile stages (nymphs) are oval, flat, and simple in appearance.

Control

Fig Whiteflys have several natural enemies so consideration of them must be taken regarding using synthetic chemical controls. Over time chemical controls become ineffective while natural predators become more numerous. Unfortunately, as you may be able to judge from the images, Fig Whiteflies reproduce incredibly quickly, probably faster than their natural enemies are able to devour them.

Singhiella simplex (Singh) predators. Click Images to enlarge.

Singhiella simplex (Singh) predators. Click Images to enlarge.

Singhiella simplex (Singh) predators. Click Images to enlarge.

Singhiella simplex (Singh) predators. Click Images to enlarge.

Insecticidal soap or oil sprays may be an effective method of control for homeowners -- thorough coverage of the undersides of the leaves is very important. Applications will need to be repeated every 7 to 10 days.

 

Other insecticides that may control this pest are Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub Insect Control (imidacloprid),  Spectricide Tree and Shrub Insect Control (dinotefuran), Ortho Bug-B-Gon (bifenthrin), Bayer Advanced Rose and Flower Insect Killer (cyfluthrin), Sevin (carbaryl), Malathion, and Ortho’s Systemic Insect Killer (Acephate).

Although a ficus tree or hedge may appear to be dying after being infested and losing most of it leaves, it may still survive the onslaught of these whiteflies' feedings. The plant probably will produce new leaves in a few weeks. As soon as new growth is evident, applying a systemic insecticide may provide protection to the new growth as repeated Fig Whitefly infestations may eventually weaken and kill these plants.

 

Sources: The Fig Whitefly – A New Pest in South Florida, The Fig Whitefly Singhiella simplex (Singh) (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): A New Exotic Whitefly Found on Ficus Species in South Florida

 
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