Broward County Extension Arms Green Industry With Knowledge To Combat Rugose Spiraling Whitefly

DATE: October 4, 2012
CONTACT: Michael Mills, Broward County Parks and Recreation 
PHONE: 954-357-8115

Following on the heels of a record five-year outbreak of Ficus whitefly, Broward County businesses and homeowners have been hit with another new pest, Rugose spiraling whitefly (RSW). Unlike Ficus whitefly, this pest attacks a much wider spectrum of trees and palms and is an even greater nuisance due to the large amount of sticky secretions (“honeydew”) that collects on cars, windows, outdoor furniture and “hardscapes” under infested trees.

The public has responded with an outcry for information and action. Some people have demanded that public officials start spraying whole neighborhoods with foliar pesticides. Others have taken matters into their own hands and resorted to chopping down infested trees simply to rid themselves of the problem. Landscape maintenance and pest control companies have asked for research-based information to develop sound management programs to offer to their clientele.

Wary of the toll that widespread use of foliar sprays might have on beneficial predators and the relatively erratic, short-term control that is likely to be realized with such applications, Broward County Extension Education responded with a barrage of researched-based factual information. Citizens have now been updated and hopefully educated via the Extension Web page (, local site visits, phone calls, participation in a state-level intergovernmental task force and presentations at numerous public meetings.

Two Extension Education programs held during the spring and summer specifically for pest control operators and landscape professionals drew 125 attendees. According to Michael Orfanedes, commercial horticulture agent with Extension, post-program surveys revealed that 95 percent of those who attended the Extension programs increased their knowledge about the life cycle of RSW and the importance of natural insect enemies in battling this pest; more than 90 percent improved their ability to recognize these beneficial insects in the landscape and gained a better understanding of how to conserve them. Roughly the same number indicated that the workshop improved their understanding of the importance of documenting the presence of crawlers (immature-stage whiteflies) when making retreatment decisions.

A follow-up survey was administered three months after the RSW educational programs were conducted. Twenty-seven responses were received, or 22 percent of program attendees, and revealed some significant continued knowledge gains and positive behavioral changes:

• 100 percent of survey respondents indicated that they were able to better identify all life-cycle stages of RSW and the beneficial insects that prey on them.
• 100 percent also reported that they had a better understanding of the importance of beneficial insects and the need to conserve them when making pesticide application decisions.
• The frequency with which these green-industry professionals evaluate and document the presence of RSW before making retreatment decisions increased from 38 percent to 92 percent.

A third educational program for the landscape and pest control industry was held in September and a fourth program is planned for later this fall. These results indicate that Extension’s educational programs are making a difference by helping green-industry professionals make informed and environmentally sound decisions on how to best manage RSW in Broward County.

For further information, call the Extension Education Section at 954-357-5270.

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