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White Fly Nest

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WSVN -- They have come to South Florida from Central America. Maybe Belize. Definitely pests.

Patrick Fraser: "This is a mess?" 

Rafael Gutierrez, Gumbo Limbo Mess: "Big time, big time."

They are the tiny Spiraling Whiteflies, that showed up and began by attacking Gumbo Limbo trees. Sucking the sap from the leaves, laying so many spiraling eggs they turn the leaves white, producing a sticky substance called Honeydew that drips to the ground where a black mold grows on it.

Rafael Gutierrez: "The mail box is ruined. You can see it's black it's all covered with this. It's like a slime something coming from the tree."

The small plants under Rafael's Gumbo Limbo trees slowly died as the black mold covered them, coating his mailbox and his driveway. His sidewalk went from white like this to black. Walk on it when it rains and you might slip on the slick surface. And if you park near a tree like this you quickly find out the honeydew will cover it with the sticky liquid.

Rafael Gutierrez: "You park a car and the next day it's full. It's like a film, that's the word a film, a film over the car and sticky."

And unlike another type of whiteflies that just attack ficus trees in South Florida. This species of whitefly goes after fruit trees, palm trees and plants.

Rafael Gutierrez: "And it's getting on all my plants and it's killing my plants. It already killed some."

Killed a hedge and the whitefly is now attached to Rafael's roses and palm trees.

Rafael Gutierrez: "This thing is horrendous and also this leave the prove that the black is getting down from flies. That's a plague you know."

Rafael tried to kill the flies with a soapy spray, it didn't work. He wanted to put a powerful insecticide in the ground to hopefully kill the flies and cut back the limbs to limit the damage. But since Rafael's tree is in the swell and technically belongs to Miami-Dade County, he was afraid to try.

Rafael Gutierrez: "It's not in my property. I can not do that because i may be penalized or fined for that."

A month after he first complained, the County came out and trimmed some branches on the tree. But the whiteflies live on and Rafael is convinced it's sucking the life out of his Gumbo Limbo tree.

Rafael Gutierrez: "I hate to see that. I hate to say that also but it is and I wish the county take the tree away. Get rid of it. Get down of the tree, cut it, finish already. It's dying as you can see."

The whitefly has damaged his car, destroyed his mailbox, killed small plants and he thinks may be killing his gumbo limbo tree. But he cant remove the tree, or can he Howard?

Howard Finkelstein: "Trees are a very complicated legal issue. They are protected by government agencies because of all they provide like oxygen, a canopy and of course beauty. In special circumstances you can remove the tree if its dead, too diseased to save or if its causing major property damage. But even if it is, you have to get permission to remove it."

Miami-Dade County told us they treated the tree for Spiraling Whiteflies on September 15, that the treatment takes 4-6 weeks to eliminate the whiteflies. If the tree dies the county will pay to remove it. If Rafael wants to remove it himself, he can do it- if he gets a permit.

When I spoke to an official at Miami-Dade County's extension office, he told me the white flies would not kill a large Gumbo Limbo tree, unless the tree wasn't healthy to begin with. That you can spray small trees and plants with a horticultural oil and for a big tree like a Gumbo Limbo, the best solution is to pour a pesticide containing Imidacloprid into the ground to remove the flies. That pesticide won't hurt the tree. But the damage could cost the county.

Howard Finkelstein: "Once Rafael notified the county they had a responsibility to act. Because they did not act timely, the county has to pay for any damage caused after Rafael notified them. In other words, repair or replace his mailbox and the plants under the tree. Also if someone slips and falls on that sidewalk now, the county could be liable for that."

Miami-Dade County refused to pay for the damage caused after Rafael reported the problem Howard says, Rafael could sue. But what he really wants is for his property to quit sticking out for the wrong reasons.

Rafael Gutierrez: "Everybody take care of their neighborhood, their yard, my house is the only one that is not product of the tree. The tree is messing the whole thing here."

Patrick Fraser: "I had whiteflies on a big gumbo limbo in my yard and the insecticide wiped out the whiteflies but it cost $65 a gallon so it's not cheap. Or you can hope Mother Nature does it for you. Parasitic wasps and mites eliminate the whiteflies but that can take months or even a year to accomplish, and most people don't want that black sticky mess around that long."

Stuck in a sticky situation that is bugging you. Don't be left in limbo. Plant the problem with us. We will be a pest for you.


EMAIL: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)

REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com



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