The Q-biotype whitefly, a significant pest that could damage agriculture, has spread from Palm Beach to seven other Florida counties, according to a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researcher.
Crops that could eventually be affected include tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals, said Lance Osborne, an entomology professor at UF/IFAS.
The whitefly species has now been reported in homeowners’ yards and on plants in retail nurseries that are destined to be planted in yards as far north as Duval County. It’s also in Broward, Highlands, Hillsborough, Martin, Pinellas and Seminole counties, Osborne said.
In April, the whitefly was found for the first time outside greenhouses and nurseries in Florida. Known scientifically as Bemisia tabaci, the Q-biotype or Mediterranean whitefly is a light-colored, tiny flying insect. This marks the first time the Q-biotype of Bemisia tabaci has been found outside a greenhouse or nursery in the United States since it was found on an ornamental plant in a greenhouse in 2004-2005, said Osborne.
Inspectors from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) are in the process of tracing the flies back to the wholesale nurseries that shipped the plants to the retail stores. From there, nurseries can work with UF/IFAS on appropriate management practices.
If homeowners suspect they have a Q-biotype whitefly in their yard, they should use soap and oils that are sold as insecticides or just call a professional exterminator.
Researchers with UF/IFAS are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and FDACS to manage the whitefly. The following measures are recommended to control the spread of Q-biotype whitefly:
- Homeowners who suspect they have a whitefly infestation should contact their UF/IFAS Extension county office. Office locations may be found at http://bit.ly/1Q8wguw.
- For identification purposes, infested leaves and dead insect specimens should be brought to local Extension offices. Wrap in a dry paper towel and place in a sealed plastic bag and then in an envelope. Freezing the specimen overnight before transport is highly recommended. Live insects should not be transported.
- The collection information should be included with the sample. Date, location, what type of vegetation is affected, number of suspected whiteflies and any information about whether a pesticide has been used on the plant is helpful information to managing the pest. For steps on how to submit a sample to the FDACS Department of Plant Industry, visit http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Business-Services/Submit-a-Sample-for-Identification.
- Because new populations have built up resistance to chemicals, it is recommended that suspected whitefly infestations be confirmed before chemically treating the insects, as it may be needless to spray pesticides.
- Landscapers and pest control operators should inspect for signs of whitefly pests, communicate with neighboring properties and homeowners associations, employ good management and growing practices and implement whitefly management guidelines available at http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/bemisia/bemisia.htm.
- Nurseries that suspect whitefly infestations should contact Cindy McKenzie at email@example.com. She will only report positive finds to the county level. Growers will not be identified. Please also check out the UF/IFAS whitefly management program.
By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Lance Osborne, 407-461-8329, email@example.com
Adrian Hunsberger, 305-248-3311, firstname.lastname@example.org
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