As some of you may have read in last week's Boca Beacon, the island is experiencing an infestation of spiraling whitefly. This new South Florida insect pest, rugose spiraling whitefly (Aleurodicus rugioperculatus) is evident on almost all of the gumbo limbo and black olive trees along the GICIA Bike Path. It is also on some of the seagrape and many of the coconut palms.
The only trees not currently affected are the gold trees and the cabbage palms.
From information provided to GICIA from certified arborist and GICIA Consultant Rick Joyce, this pest is from South America and appears to be aggressive on the barrier islands in south Florida. A couple of weeks ago Rick Joyce was here and documented the spiraling whitefly on several trees. His recommendation at that time was to monitor it. Since then the island-wide infestation has rapidly increased. Fortunately, this disgusting exotic pest will not kill healthy trees. However, it can weaken them to a point that a secondary pest, disease or even freeze could kill a once-healthy tree.
It also has an appearance that is not very aesthetically pleasing as it covers the bottom of the leaves with white excrement that is then devoured by fungus spores called black sooty mold. Then the leaves fall off.Last week an inventory was completed of the trees and shrubs along the path that are infected. The number is absolutely staggering. Protecting the investment GICIA has made in landscaping its Bike Path is paramount and we are working closely with Statewide Pest Control and Rick Joyce to determine the best approach for the GICIA Bike Path property. Treatment is expensive, with the first ballpark estimate coming in at nearly $30,000 for total treatment, which would last a year.
At this time GICIA has decided to take a phased approach to treating the Whitefly infestation. Later this week Statewide Pest Control will begin treatment on the largest trees along the path. This will amount to approximately 300 trees and about $11,000. Once this treatment is complete a decision will be made as to what the second phase of the treatment should be.
Many of you are going to find this pest in your personal landscapes. The Boca Beacon article is attached and there are several links below that will provide you with more information.
Misty NicholsExecutive DirectorGasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association
Lee County Extension Office fact sheetlee.ifas.ufl.edu/Hort/GardenPubsAZ/Rugose.pdf
Fort Myers Beach newspaper articlebeach-bulletin.com/page/content.detail/id/521643/WHITEFLY--New-pest-invades-Beach-trees-and-plants.html?nav=5051
Miami Dade Extension Office fact sheetmiami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/documents/Thegumbolimbospiralingwhiteflyfactsheet.pdf
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