Whitefly nuisance grows in South Florida

A pair of silverleaf whiteflies, Bemisia tabaci, which measure about one-tenth of an inch long, feed on a watermelon leaf.

Courtesy United States Department of Agriculture

A pair of silverleaf whiteflies, Bemisia tabaci, which measure about one-tenth of an inch long, feed on a watermelon leaf.

MIAMI — Scientists say conditions are right for a nuisance fly even more of a problem in South Florida.

The rugose spiraling whitefly was first discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2009. The infestation now has spread from Monroe to Palm Beach counties.

Scientists at the Miami-Dade/University of Florida agriculture extension office say high summer temperatures mean the insect can reproduce more quickly. A recent drought has aggravated the problem by making pesticides ineffective.

The whitefly strips nutrients from host plants, and a sticky goo excreted by the insect damages car paint, patio furniture and can impair chlorination in swimming pools.

Some cities are spending tens of thousands of dollars to battle the insect.

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