Rugose Spiraling Whitefly

Rugose Spiraling Whitefly Adult, Juvenile, and Egg Stages. Click on photo for detail. UF Laura Sanagorski

As I write this article there are a number of Rugose Spiraling Whiteflies flying all over my office.  Although I’ve had samples coming across my desk for over a year, I still can’t get over how big these whiteflies are compared to the Ficus  and Bemisia – almost three times bigger.

HOSTS. This Whitefly was originally called the Gumbo Limbo Spiraling Whitefly, because we thought it was only going to feed and reproduce on that tree.  Unfortunately, we were wrong: the Spiraling Whitefly (now renamed Rugose) has a broad list of hosts, which seems to grow by the day.  The preferred hosts are Gumbo Limbo, White Bird of Paradise, Coconut Palm, Black Olive, Live Oak, and others.

Rugose Spiraling Whitefly. UF Laura Sanagorski

LIFECYCLE. The adult lays eggs in a telltale spiral pattern on the undersides of the leaves.  As with the other whiteflies, it is the young insects that cause the damage through their feeding activities.  The young stages of this insect feed on a plant’s fluids with piercing/sucking mouthparts (which causes stress to the shrub or tree).  A secondary problem is that feeding activities produce a sticky substance (called honeydew) which supports the growth of sooty mold and may cause a mess, especially if there are cars, sidewalks, etc., below.

LOCATION.  As of now, I’ve seen this spiraling whitefly throughout the entire Palm Beach county.  It has also been identified all over Broward and Miami Dade Counties for some time now.  

TREATMENT. Systemic insecticides in the neonicotinoid family are very effective against the Rugose Spiraling Whitefly.  We’ve seen some great results with basal bark and injection treatments.  Horticultural soaps and oils will reduce whitefly populations as well.

MORE INFORMATION. Please see Dr. Catharine Mannion’s factsheet on Rugose Spiraling Whitefly or Rugose Spiraling Whitefly Treatment in the Landscape power point presentation for more detail and for a list of recommended products.  Please continue to watch the IFAS Palm Beach County Extension: Environmental Horticulture blog and the Palm Beach County Whitefly Task Force website  for updates on everything related to whiteflies.


9 responses to this post.

  1. […] in Delray Beach, FL. The Rugose Spiraling Whitefly has infested many areas of Southeast FL. Click here for more information on this […]


  2. Posted by Jim H. on June 18, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    We are documenting the impact of these whiteflies on Gumbo Limbo and other species of plant they infest here at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in North Palm Beach. They appear to be on every Gumbo Limbo tree in the park, some far worse than others. The flies also attack the Smilax vines which grow on or near the Gumbo Limbo trees. The honeydew is coating understory plants and enouraging the growth of sooty mold on wild coffee, wild lime, and others. I am taking many photos weekly.
    I did not see any whiteflies on a recent trip to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter, several miles inland.


  3. Posted by Bethany Clark on July 18, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    We at BayReach started noticing Sprialing White Fly around November, 2011, and treated it with systemic granules BANDIT and Crosscheck spray. It is on our coconuts trees, hibiscus, and very distressing to watch. We are located right on the ICW just north of the Blue Heron bridge.


  4. My gumbo limbo tree in downtown West Palm Beach is infested and so are many of my landscape plants. I don’t spray or use pesticides because I have many beneficial insects in my yard. I had heard that there was a wasp that was eating the ficus whiteflies down in Ft. Lauderdale. Is there any evidence that there may be a predator for the spiraling whitefly?


    • Julie,
      There are a lot of positive findings that there are a number of natural predators. This is why we urge you to use pesticides responsibly. While there are no enemies available for purchase as of yet for spiraling whitefly control, you can manage your landscape in a way that protects those naturally-occuring predators.

      Laura Sanagorski


  5. Posted by nick on October 11, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    Ive seen it in West Palm Beach , Fl for at least 4 years. I just didnt know what it was.


  6. Just discovered what I believe to be this pest in southern Pinellas County on coconut and Christmas palms as well as on white and orange birds. Carole 10 16 12


  7. Posted by swati athawale on January 24, 2013 at 2:26 AM

    I searching information regarding this pest last two weeks,now it completed.thanks


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