Whitefly Warning Puts Florida Agriculture on Guard for Costly Outbreak

The Q-biotype whitefly, a significant tropical and subtropical pest, may threaten Florida crops and ornamentals if immediate measures are not taken to prevent its spread.

This significant tropical and subtropical pest may threaten Florida crops such as tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals.  Known scientifically as Bemisia tabaci, the Q-biotype is a light-colored, flying insect slightly less than 1 millimeter in length.

For now, the whitefly is in Palm Beach County, according to a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences report.

There are two whitefly biotypes, referred to as Bemisia tabaci. The Q-biotype has been detected in a number of landscapes in Palm Beach County—Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens. Samples from all the other difficult-to-manage populations are the B-biotype. Currently, only the Q-biotype has been found in these four areas.

Scientists consider Bemisia tabaci a major invasive species worldwide. It feeds on more than 900 host plants and transmits more than 111 plant virus species. Losses in global agricultural production have increased as a result of Bemisia tabaci as new, more virulent and less pesticide-sensitive cryptic species have spread to all continents except Antarctica.

Indistinguishable from B-biotype, Q-biotype is extremely problematic to agricultural production because the insects are highly prone to develop resistance to insect growth regulators and neonicotinoid insecticides, researchers say. Both classes of insecticides are widely used for controlling whiteflies in many cropping systems, including cotton and ornamentals.

The Whitefly management plan for Growers.

Source: Brad Buck, Southeast Farm Press

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