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Ficus Whitefly

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Ficus Whitefly:  How to Help Your Landscape Cope

Ficus trees and hedges throughout South Florida were hit hard in recent years by the Ficus Whitefly, which causes the leaves to turn yellow and drop from the plant.  The pest has been found to mainly infest ficus, weeping fig, banyan trees, strangler fig, fiddle-leaf fig and banana-leaf fig.

The underside of infested leaves look as though they are dotted with small, silver or white spots.  The insects feed on the underside of the leaves with their "needle-like" mouthparts and can seriously injure the host plants causing wilting, yellowing, stunting growth, and leaf drop.

Efforts to understand and control this pest are still ongoing but there are several options currently available.

Monitor ficus plants for early signs of infestation which will be easier to manage (prior to defoliation); look for the specks on the underside of leaves.

Insecticidal soap or oil sprays are effective for small trees or shrubs – coverage of the undersides of leaves is especially important. It is necessary to repeat applications every 7-10 days. If hedges are trimmed, bag clippings to reduce spreading insects.

Once infestation has been removed, feed with fertilizer to assist foliage in recovery.