This summer, the floriculture industry has been faced with a dangerous new development — the detection of the Q-Biotype whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) in outdoor landscapes. It’s the first time that the Q-Biotype has been found in the U.S., outside of a greenhouse or wholesale nursery, since the pest was first detected on an ornamental plant in an Arizona greenhouse in December 2004.
This year in Florida, there have been 47 detections of the Q since April, in retail nurseries and residential landscapes in 10 counties in Florida, from Miami-Dade to Duval County, primarily on hibiscus. Other hosts involved are crossandra, eggplant transplants, lantana, ficus, and porter weed. The detections have been in 17 retail nurseries, eight wholesale nurseries, 10 residential landscapes, and two agricultural fields. Other states have reported Q-Biotype detections this year, as well.
The discovery of Q-Biotype whitefly in the landscape is troubling for the entire ornamentals industry, as well as the vegetable and cotton industries, considering that the pest is an invasive that feeds on 600 crops and carries more than 100 viruses. Research on the Q-Biotype has also revealed that it is highly prone to developing resistance to insect growth regulators and other pesticides, that it maintains that resistance and doesn’t revert to susceptibility when pesticides are absent, and that it may be a better vector of pathogens than the B-Biotype whitefly.
However, due to the industry’s involvement in the National Whitefly Taskforce, which since its establishment in 2005 has developed a strong framework for control and management of Q-Biotype and B-Biotype whiteflies, the outlook for mitigating the whitefly problem is positive, though it’s still a problem.
“The introduction of the Q-Biotype whitefly has threatened to be a major crisis, but thanks to industry, government, and top entomologists’ cooperation, we have been able to deal with it,” says Dr. Joe Bischoff on behalf of the Society of American Florists (SAF).
Next: Identifying Q-Biotype And Deciding On A Course Of Action