Florida drought hinders whitefly fight

July 5, 2011 at 3:32 PM
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MIAMI, July 5 (UPI) -- Insect experts say dry weather and thirsty trees in South Florida have contributed to a population boom of whiteflies this summer.

The current infestation has spread across Monroe and Palm Beach counties and the greater Miami area, resulting in a sticky form of mold that soils cars, patio furniture and swimming pool water.

An entomologist told The Miami Herald that while the pesky whitefly has been buzzing around Florida since 2009, the early summer weather has made battling the pest tougher.

Catharine Mannion of the Florida agriculture extension office said the lack of soil moisture is preventing tree roots from absorbing the pesticides. At the same time, afternoon showers provide just enough rain to wash the whitefly eggs off the leaves of the host plants.

Experts were busy Tuesday researching natural predators of the whitefly as an alternative strategy.

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