No, I am not referring to the politicians who air those annoying ads on TV. The “Treasure Coast” area of Florida (On the Atlantic Ocean surrounding Palm Beach) is suffering from an invasive whitefly, the Rugose Spiraling Whitefly, Aleurodicus rugioperculatus. This whitefly is native to Central America and is expected to Spread in Southern Florida. The Rugose Spiraling Whitefly was first collected in Miami-Dade County in 2009. It has since spread across Southern Florida. It is about 3 times the size of native whiteflies.
The whiteflies have sucking mouthparts and feed from the undersides of leaves of a wide variety of tree species. Their mouthparts tap into the phloem tissue of the plant that contains high concentrations of sucrose. The whitefly secretes honeydew to eliminate excess sugar. The honeydew is sticky and coats cars, lawn furniture and other items left under the trees. The sugar in the honeydew is great food for molds which grow and produce difficult to remove stains.
The whitefly problem is spreading and gathering press attention. Scientists at the University of Florida are developing methods for managing this pest. Global trade brings many good things and some bad. Among the bad are exotic and invasive pest insects that create new problems and costs for the public. Preventing exotic species from entering the country is an important first line of defense and cost saving measure.