Rugose Spiraling Whitefly (Aleurodicus rugioperculatus) is an exotic pest from Central America. It has been found in FL only thus far, but is sure to spread. This pest is a different species of whitefly than the whitefly species that is infesting Ficusin FL.
There are many insecticide options for controlling this insect. It’s lifecycle is still relatively unknown, but multiple life stages are probably present at the same time. Xytect 10% or Transtect Infusible may be best because of its extremely short uptake time. An advantage to using systemic insecticides vs. foliar sprays is that they have longer lasting residual and require 1-2 applications per season only. Treatments can be applied whenever pest populations are noted on an individual tree. In addition preventive applications with systemic treatments should be considered on high value host species that are growing in areas where heavy whitefly populations are present.
Other Treatment Practices
- Promote health and vigor with proper irrigation, mulching, proper pruning and prescription based fertilization practices.
- Adequate water is a key factor in maintaining stress free plants. A slow, deep watering event once every few weeks during dry conditions will help maintain soil moisturelevels and minimize stress.
- Mulch is very beneficial for all trees because it reduces competition with turf and moderates soil temperature and moisture levels. The addition of 3 inches of wood chips or shredded bark under the drip line can have a very beneficial effect by holding in moisture and promoting healthy fibrous roots.
- Cambistat can be also be used to promote tree health and reduce the incidence and severity of stress mediated diseases and insect problems on trees growing in urban areas.
This insect has been reported in “epidemic” proportions, so multiple years of treatment may be needed until the insect population decreases. It may take some time for the plant leaves to appear clean and healthy to grow out of the discolored appearance caused by the honeydew and sooty mold.
Signs of Damage
- Abundant white, waxy material on leaves
- Sooty mold is sometimes associated with this insect
- Plant decline and dieback
- Unknown what long-term impact this insect has on host plants
Trees At Risk
Common hosts include:
- Copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana)
- Sugarapple (Annona sp.)
- Norfolk island pine(Araucaria heterophylla)
- Black olive (Bucida buceras)
- Gumbo limbo (Bursera simaruba)
- Calophyllum species
- Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus)
- Cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco)
- Satinleaf (Chrysophyllum oliviforme)
- Coconut palm (Cocos nucifera)
- Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus)
- Hawaiian ti (Cordyline fruticosa)
- Hurricane palm (Dictyosperma album)
- Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens)
- Eugenia spp.
- Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea)
- Edible Fig (Ficus carica)
- Spindle palm (Hyophorbe verschaffeltii)
- Mango (Mangifera indica)
- Manilkara roxburghiana
- Wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)
- Banana (Musa sp.)
- Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
- Avocado (Persea americana)
- Pigmy palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
- Live oak (Quercus virginiana)
- Sabal palm (Sabal palmetto)
- Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius)
- Simarouba glauca
- Smilax auriculata
- Spondias sp.
- Spondias purpurea
- White bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai)
- Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae)
- Tabebuia species
- Tropical almond (Terminalia catappa)
- Veitchia species
- Washingtonia palm
- Zeuxine strateumatica
- Due to limited available published research, little is known about the this whitefly’s biology and life cycle.
- Rugose spiraling whitefly adults are about three times larger (approx. 2.5 mm) than the commonly found whiteflies and are lethargic by nature.
- Females lay eggs on the underside of leaves in a concentric circular or spiral pattern and cover it with white waxy matter.
- Eggs are elliptical and creamy white to dark yellow in color. Adult females sometimes lay their eggs on non-plant surfaces such as cars, windows and walls.
- Rugose spiraling whitefly has 5 developmental stages. The first instar, known as the crawler stage (because it is the only mobile immature stage) hatches out of the egg, and looks for a place to begin feeding with its needle-like mouth parts used to suck plant sap.
- Crawlers molt into immature stages that are immobile, oval and flat initially but become more convex with the progression of its life cycle (Mannion 2010).
- Nymphs are about 1.1 -1.5 mm long but may vary in size depending on instars.
- The nymphs are light to golden yellow in color, and will produce a dense, cottony wax as well as long, thin waxy filaments (Stocks and Hodges 2012) which get denser over time. The puparium of this species is used for taxonomic identification.
Always refer to product label for rates and approved uses. Some images courtesy of forestryimages.org or Wikimedia Commons. Use of the images does not imply endorsement of treatments.