The Ficus genus includes approximately 1000 different species of trees and shrubs, many of which are cultivated as indoor ornamentals or landscape plants. Several different insects feed on ficus plants. They often leave a sticky, shiny residue on the leaves.
Whiteflies are tiny flying insects with whitish wax-covered wings and bodies. Aphids are small pear-shaped insects that vary in color depending upon the species and what they have been eating. Soft scales range between 0.125 and 0.5 inches around and vary in color, while mealybugs are around 0.125 inches long with oval-shaped, waxy white bodies.
Whiteflies, aphids, soft scale insects and mealybugs have piercing and sucking mouthparts. They drain sap from ficus foliage and excrete a sticky-sweet liquid substance called honeydew that drips on leaves and stems, giving the foliage a sticky, shiny texture. A black fungus called sooty mold occasionally forms on the honeydew deposits.
You can control whitefly and aphid populations by spraying infested ficus plants with a steady stream of water to dislodge the insects. You can also remove whitefly eggs by hand-picking leaves or vacuuming insects from the foliage, and control scale insects and mealybugs by pruning out infested leaves. Horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps also help control infestations.
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