Swarms of whiteflies worry Bay Harbor Islands

The invasive whitefly isn’t just eating away at ficus anymore. It’s attacking gumbo limbos, coconut palms and other shrubs.

The Bay Harbor Islands Town Council voted unanimously to pay an outside company to treat the pests for just under $28,000 at its Monday meeting. They agreed to tap into the town’s Streets and Parkways and Causeways reserves to get the job done.

Town Manager Ronald Wasson explained why he thought council should support the investment.

“Unfortunately, this is the kind of pest you can’t go to Home Depot for,” he said. “You need a professional who knows how to handle them.”

Bay Harbor resident Josh Fuller suggested replacing the town’s vulnerable plants with ones whitefly wouldn’t attack. But Wasson said it wouldn’t work.

“It’s a good idea,” said Wasson. “But the problem with whitefly is it’s like playing Russian Roulette. No one knows what plant it’s going to eat next.”

Councilwoman Stephanie Bruder expressed concerns about whether the investment would be effective if residents don’t try to wipe out whiteflies on their properties.

“If we sprayed the town and my neighbor has it and he doesn’t want to spray it, we can’t legally make him spray it,” she said. “If we have the services can we just offer it to everyone? Won’t it just jump if some people don’t spray?”

Legally, the town can only make residents replace dead plants.

Resident Chuck Wallace said he wasted thousands of dollars trying to eradicate the insect from his property. But he suggested whitefly might even make its way over from neighboring coastal municipalities like Bal Harbour and Surfside.

“Maybe since we’re part of a couple islands, we could look into killing all of it otherwise it will come back,” he said. “We should do code enforcement, otherwise it doesn’t make sense to spend $27,000.”

Councilman Robert Yaffe asked about the possibility of extending the service to residents. He suggested sending out educational notices and possible discounts.

Bruce Bernard, project manager at Calvin, Giordano & Associates, Inc, a firm the town uses for many of its projects, was asked for his opinion.

“The best thing to me is giving the residents as many options as you can give them,” said Bernard. “You can try to control them. You’re never going to eradicate them.”

Despite some lingering fear about infected plants spreading whitefly around town, council awarded the $27,840 contract to Spray Pro for insect control and landscape fertilization with one amendment, stipulating the town manager contact Spray Pro on behalf of residents interested in getting rid of their whitefly. Residents can contact Wasson at 305-866-6241

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/20/2071957/swarms-of-whiteflies-worry-bay.html#ixzz1Ei1qnQbW
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