Natural Enemies Managing the Invasion of the Fig Whitefly, Singhiella simplex (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae), Infesting a Ficus benjamina Hedge
The fig whitefly, Singhiella simplex (Singh), a recent adventive species native of Burma, China and India (Singh 1931) has become a major pest in Florida (Hodges 2007) feeding on and defoliating Ficus shrubs and trees. This pest, first discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2007, is spreading throughout Florida; and recently it was found in Saint Lucie County, FL (personal observation, Avery 2009). Literature on the biology of the fig whitefly is sparse and most references are extension documents (Mannion et al. 2008; Caldwell 2009; Mannion 2010). The life cycle may be similar to that of the other Singhiella species that are present in Florida, (Singhiella citrifolii (Morgan), with at least three generations per year (Hodges 2007). Leaves of Ficus that turn yellow prior to defoliation are one of the most obvious symptoms of a fig whitefly infestation. The fig whitefly is most commonly found infesting weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), but may eventually damage other species of Ficus as well (Mannion et al. 2008).
In the landscape, several natural enemies have been observed attacking this whitefly, which may play an important role in long term control. Awareness of these natural enemies is very important in making pesticide application decisions so as not to adversely affect them. Commonly observed natural enemies include ladybird beetle predators, Harmonia axyridis (Pallas), Olla-v-nigrum (Mulsant), Exochomus children Mulsant, Chilocorus nigritis (F.), Curinus coeruleus (Mulsant); parasitoids, Encarsia protransvena Viggiani, Amitus bennetti Viggiani & Evans; and lacewings, Chrysopa spp. (Mannion 2010). Moreover, enzootic entomopathogenic fungi may also play a role in managing this pest (Elliot et al. 2000; Torres-Barragán et al. 2004). However, no entomopathogenic fungus isolated from the fig whitefly in Florida has been reported to date.