Nuisance spiraling whitefly spreads from Miami-Dade, now in Marco Island

The new rugose spiraling whitefly makes a unique spiraling pattern when it deposits its eggs on the undersides of leaves. Holly Glenn/UF/IFAS

The new rugose spiraling whitefly makes a unique spiraling pattern when it deposits its eggs on the undersides of leaves. Holly Glenn/UF/IFAS

The rugose spiraling whitefly arrived in Miami-Dade County in 2009. The infestation first spread south to Monroe and north to Palm Beach counties.How, it has been found in Collier County.

— A new nuisance fly is causing a buzz in Southwest Florida.

The rugose spiraling whitefly arrived in October at the Marriott Marco Island Resort and Spa from South Florida.

Since then, the hotel has been treating the infestation using the pest's natural predator beetle — delphastus cataliniae.

"We aren't anticipating any significant landscaping loss because our team jumped on it quickly enough and the beetles are doing their job," general manager Rick Medwedeff said.

In late October, the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry confirmed that the new exotic fly was in Marco Island after collecting specimens at several locations in the Tigertail Court and Kendall Drive area.

Doug Caldwell, a commercial landscape horticulture extension educator and landscape entomologist with the University of Florida's Collier County Extension Service, has received emails with pictures from local homeowners and landscaping companies who are finding, "sooty mold," a black-color fungus on plants. Although he hasn't visited the sites to confirm, he said the residue left behind on plants shown in pictures is from the rugose whitefly.

"Nothing else would be leaving that kind of residue behind," said Caldwell, also a Daily News gardening columnist.

Caldwell plans to visit the sites before the end of the week.

The whitefly strips nutrients from host plants, leaving a sticky goo and white residue, which makes plants look nasty. In addition, the fly damages car paint, patio furniture and can impair chlorination in swimming pools.

Some of the 38 hosts besides gumbo limbo include copperleaf, Norfolk Island Pine, live oak, and coconut and sabal palms.

Small parasitic wasps eliminate some of them, but it will take a year or two — if ever — before the good bugs become effective in keeping the population reduced, Caldwell said.

"If you can wait it out through the ugliness, the trees might rebound," he said.

The rugose spiraling whitefly arrived in Miami-Dade County in 2009.

Fortunately, this new whitefly — also known as the gumbo limbo spiraling whitefly — doesn't seem as damaging as the ficus whitefly. The ficus whitefly was confirmed in Naples for the first time in January 2009.

* * * * *

Those who think they have the rugose spiraling whitefly can contact the University of Florida Collier County Extension Service at (239) 353-4244.

__ Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel/

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