recently received a
weeping fig tree as a gift, and I noticed that
some of the leaves are curled and have reddish spots. They are
starting to drop off the tree now. Do you have any idea what is
causing this and what I can do to stop it?
tropical plants such as weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) are produced
in large greenhouse ranges in the southeastern United States. A new
pest was introduced into Miami-Dade County, Florida in 2003 known as
the weeping fig thrips (Gynaikothrips uzeli) that causes symptoms
such as you describe. The name thrips is both singular and plural.
This pest is of great concern to interiorscape companies because it
is very difficult to eradicate once it becomes established in an
Adult weeping fig thrips typically feed on the upper surface of
young, newly expanding leaves. This feeding activity causes
reddish spots on the lower leaf surface, and causes the leaves
to fold over, almost right in half along the midrib. Adults lay
their eggs inside these folded leaves, and the immature thrips
develop and grow protected by the leaf “tent.” Affected leaves
tend to drop prematurely.
This pest is relatively large for a thrips, and you should be
able to see the adults with your naked eye. Their eggs are
cylindrical and translucent, and young larvae are oblong and
white with red eyes. Adults are dark brown or black, and are
less than one-seventh inch long.
Where thrips feed
Weeping fig thrips only affect the tender new growth – they do
not go after hardened off, mature leaves. Once thrips are
protected inside their leaf “tents,” they are pretty well
protected from insecticide applications. When management is
required, one strategy to reduce the population of weeping fig
thrips is to prune off and dispose of infested leaves. Be sure
to tie them up securely in a plastic trash bag and get it out of
the house ASAP. Then monitor new growth that sprouts for thrips
on a regular basis – every few days at least. While many of the
insecticides that commercial growers use to control thrips are
not readily available to home gardeners, horticultural oil (SunSpray,
All Seasons Horticultural Spray Oil) can provide good control
and is safe to use. Avoid getting it on carpeting or furniture
during the application.
While this pest can damage other species of Ficus, weeping fig
is the only species where it can complete its life cycle. Ficus
‘Alii’ (Ficus binnendiijki ‘Alii’) seems to be resistant to
weeping fig thrips and is less finicky than weeping fig; it
rarely sheds its leaves as weeping fig is known to do, and
tolerates lower light levels.
drop when moving Weeping Figs
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