How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Ficus whitefly—Singhiella simplex

Ficus whitefly (family Aleyrodidae), also called fig whitefly, is a phloem-sucking insect native to Southeast Asia. It was inadvertently introduced into Southern California in 2012.


Adults have dark red eyes, a yellow body, and white wings with faint grayish brown markings. They are about 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) long and at rest resemble small, white and yellow moths. If infested foliage is disturbed the tiny, white adults readily fly.

Nymphs occur on both the upper and lower surface of ficus leaves. They are oval and semitransparent with a pale green, tan, yellow, or whitish body that can blend with the coloration of leaves on which they feed. Last instars (pupae) have distinct red eyes and are about 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) long.

Eggs are elongate to kidney shaped and pale brown to yellow. They occur mostly in dense groups along the midvein and near the base of the underside of ficus leaves.

Life cycle

Ficus whitefly develops through 3 life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Nymphs develop through 4 increasingly larger instars and the last instar is called a pupa. Adults live for about 1 week during which a female lays about 40 eggs. During warm weather egg to adult development occurs in about 1 month. Ficus whitefly has several generations per year.


Hosts of ficus whitefly include Ficus altissima, F. aurea, F. benghalensis, F. benjamina, F. lyrata, F. maclellandii, F. microcarpa, and F. racemosa. While feeding, the whitefly excretes copious honeydew that attracts ants and provides a substrate on which blackish sooty mold grows. Feeding by abundant whiteflies fouls surfaces beneath infested plants. Heavily infested foliage turns yellow, then brown and drops prematurely. Prolonged feeding by abundant whiteflies can cause branch dieback and stunt the growth of young hosts. The flying of numerous adult whiteflies can be annoying.


Elsewhere in the world ficus whitefly is fed upon by numerous parasitoid (parasitic) wasps and lady beetles (ladybugs) and other predators. It is apparently unknown whether natural enemies help suppress the abundance of ficus whitefly in California.

Provide ficus with a good growing environment and appropriate cultural care to increase plants' tolerance of pest damage. Whiteflies are difficult to control with foliar sprays in part because thoroughly covering the underside of leaves with spray is difficult. Where ficus whitefly is annoyingly abundant or damaging to ficus, the most effective control is to drench the soil around the base of trunks with a systemic neonicotinoid such as dinotefuran or imidacloprid as directed on product labels.

Adapted from Ficus Whitefly (Singhiella simplex) (PDF) by the Los Angeles County Department of Agriculture and Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs: An Integrated Pest Management Guide, University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM).

Premature leaf drop and sooty mold due to ficus whitefly.
Premature leaf drop and sooty mold due to ficus whitefly.

Ficus hedge defoliated by ficus whitefly.
Ficus hedge defoliated by ficus whitefly.

Nymphs and pupae of ficus whitefly on a leaf.
Nymphs and pupae of ficus whitefly on a leaf.

Adult ficus whitefly.
Adult ficus whitefly.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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