Friday, October 14, 2011

Iguanas, Whitefly, and hoping for an early Winter

Welcome to South Florida.

We have many migrants to these lands, some welcome, others not.

Have you ever walked back to your porch and stared directly into the red eye ring of an Iguana that was six feet long and munching on your prized Bougainvillea?  I have, and I have written about them frequently.  They're back and running through the yard.

The latest migrant coming in from Miami is something with a tongue twisting name of the Rugose Spiraling Whitefly.  I think they're here already in Wilton Manors and making their way North.

Like most, their numbers will be reduced if we get a good long cold snap.  The previous wave of Whitefly that went after the Ficus turned the hedges into sticks on most plants.  Plenty of spraying cut their numbers back, the cold weeks of February that went as low as 34F/1C did most of them in.

What happens here is we get a cold week in February just like everyone else.  Statistically it is the second week of February.  It won't freeze here but it does have some interesting effects.

It sees flocks of birds of a strange variety flying in to thaw their bones.  They come in from Northern places like Philadelphia, Chicago, Montreal and other cities and clog our roadways.  Yes, the Snowbird.  But the Snowbird's effect is (somewhat) beneficial since they are an engine and boost to our economies.

Despite how they drive on the roads...

In the natural world it tends to empty out some of these exotic species.  Most invasives are not quite used to near freezing weather, so while the natives and those of us who are naturalized like many of us can adapt, these can not.  The last wave of the other kind of Whitefly died off greatly and that allowed the Ficus hedges in Broward county at least to rebound.

It also cut back the Iguana population to where we had them raining out of the trees.   My own Sea Grape tree in the back yard had 12 of them fall out of it when the tree was trimmed back last year.  Some survive and they come back later.

Personally I'm hoping they stay away.  They're like having a vegetarian herd of stray cats running through your yard that shreds anything they like.  It's not a case of share, its a case of they are like a lawn mower.

The latest wave of Rugosa Spiraling Whitefly may completely vanish if we get a cold enough snap but in South Florida, that is questionable. After all, the urban cores of Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and West Palm Beach are a few degrees warmer than just outside of downtown and the Keys are next door and always warmer.  That may be all they need to survive.

It's a great advertisement for why the Government is completely correct in it's agricultural inspection efforts.  Once in a while one gets by them, but for the most part it would only be worse if they weren't stopping uninspected fruits and vegetables at the ports, and sending back exotic animals to their homeland.

(I hope)

The reason the Iguanas and the other animals exist in the wild here is because we brought them here as pets and released them.  Either accidentally or "on purpose" they got into the ecosystem and won't leave.  Ball Pythons that may look "cool" in a home display aquarium will get loose and end up in the Everglades and eat up native species that are already under stress or endangered.

I shall take you home and put you in a glass prison and call you Monty.  No, thank you.

Parrots released have taken up residence in flocks all over Fort Lauderdale, and their calls are familiar especially when out on walks.  In fact, a Cherry Headed Amazon visited my property the day I went to look at it the first time.  I took That Particular Visit as a good omen but visits by exotics are typically disruptive.  Those same beautiful flocks of Cherry Headed Amazons that dine on the seeds of the Washingtonia Palms in my neighborhood are displacing native flocks of other types of Parrots and birds.

The Whitefly infestation this time won't be quite as bad as the ones that killed off many of the ficus.   They will cover the leaves with a sticky goo that will turn moldy and drip onto everything.  The host trees won't die, but they will look like they should have.  There are sprays that the cities around me are using to "control" these bugs, but that won't get them all and it never does.   Hope for a good winter cold snap like I am.  I'll gripe and grouse like all the other Floridians will but I'll remember to watch so I don't trip over falling Iguanas and be happy that the Whitefly infestation will be somewhat controlled naturally.

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