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Got Dying Ficus? 

A New Species of Whiteflies Infesting Ficus in Collier County 


Since the end of December 2008, we at Naples Fertilizer & Garden Centers have been receiving calls from concerned people about ficus plants turning yellow and dropping their leaves. A new species of whitefly has been found infesting these plants. 


Description and Damage: The leaves of ficus trees infested with these new fig whiteflies begin to turn yellow before the leaves drop, often in large quantities. Ficus trees without their leaves are one of the most obvious symptoms of a whitefly infestation. 


Host Plants: Weeping fig (Ficus Benjamina)  

This plant is commonly used for hedges and seems to be the most susceptible host. Other species of ficus that are hosts: 

- Banyan trees (F altissima and F bengalensis) 

- Strangler Fig (F aurea) 

- Cuban Laurel (F microcarpa) 

- Banana-Leaf Fig (F maclellandii) 

- Fiddle-LeaiFig (F lyrata) 


Infestation Identification: 

To see if your ficus is infested, look on the underside of the leaves. The underside of leaves may have silvery-wilt tiny spots. These are the old skins of the immature whiteflies. The adult whitefly is small and flies when your plant is touched.  They look like tiny, white moths. Shake branches and a cloud of insects may be seen.


Management (for homeowners): Monitor your ficus plants for the early signs of an infestation since it will be easier to manage the pest at this stage. Treat immediately with both "Ferti-Iome's Tree & Shrub Systemic Insect Drench (containing liquid ImidacIoprid) and "Hi-Yield's Grub Free Zone" (containing granular ImidacIoprid).


If the plant has yellow leaves or has dropped all the leaves, it may be a little late to apply any insecticide. Wait until new growth is evident and use a soil applied Systemic Imidacloprid Drench along with Grub Free Zone Granular Imidacloprid. 


On smaller plants: 

- Horticultural oil spray (Ferti-lome's Dormant Oil Spray) along with Neem (Fertilome's Triple Action). The above 2 products may be effective, but, thorough coverage of the undersides of the leaves is especially important. It will also be necessary to repeat these applications every 7 to 10 days. Spray late in the day to avoid burning the foliage



For hedges and larger ficus: 

-Imidacloprid (Ferti-Iome Tree & Shrub Systemic Liquid Insect Drench + Hi Yield 

Granular Grub Free Zone); commercial products are Merit® applied to the soil. 


These products are very long-lasting, lasting many months, but cannot be used near water. It is usually NOT necessary to REPEAT TREATMENT within at least 6 months of application unless you experience new growth


At this time, avoid using foliar sprays (except for oil or insecticidal soap sprays). 


When applying pesticides, ALWAYS FOLLOW THE LABEL DIRECTIONS Defoliated ficus may still be alive. If the twigs are still supple, the plant will produce new growth in a few weeks. As soon as new growth is evident, one of the systemic insecticides mentioned can be applied to the soil to protect new growth. 


To slow down the spread of this pest, do not remove ficus clippings from your yard. The leaves make good mulch and can be left under your plants. 







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