MARCO ISLAND, Fla.- A new pest is moving onto Marco Island in numbers. Experts say the Rugose Spiraling Whitefly can do serious damage to pricey palm trees.
The little pests were first spotted on Florida's East Coast in 2009, but starting late last year, they've been making Marco their new home.
"Something ended up here that was infested and once they're here, off they go!" Dr. Doug Caldwell of the University of Florida's IFAS Extension said.
The flies pierce landscaping and suck out the sap. They're known to favor some of Southwest Florida's priciest palms.
"It's got a very broad appetite. But unfortunately, it first goes to our Coconuts. We're also seeing it go for our Royal Palms and Foxtails," Caldwell said.
Palm fronds often appear glossy, if there's an infestation. Another sign that there's a swarm is a black, gooey mold festering under trees. Experts say it's a by-product of the insect's excrement.
"Once you have it on one of your trees on your property, it's going to hop to other trees and then it goes from neighbor to neighbor," Yvette Benarroch of Marco Island's Affordable Landscaping said.
The City of Marco Island is now taking a proactive stance to protect it's coveted curbside landscaping. They're now taking proposals for trunk-injection inoculations for hundreds of palms that line medians.
"They spend a lot of money on their landscaping and I always say it's cheaper to treat. It's more costly to replace," Benarroch said.
The city still has to approve a bid before work will begin on hundreds of infested city owned palms.
If you think you have an infestation, experts recommend contacting a licensed landscaper. Trunk-injection inoculations can be pricey. The cost varies, depending on the diameter of the trunk and the number of trees infested.