BELLEAIR SHORE – The Pinellas beach communities are seeing a resurgence of whiteflies, a pest that can be extremely damaging to tropical foliage.
“The whiteflies have resurged up and down the beach,” said Belleair Shore Commissioner Deborah Roseman at the Oct. 15 town meeting. Roseman said the insects have attacked palm trees in particular this time.
Pest control companies are booked three weeks out solely to deal with whiteflies, she said.
“This invasion came all of a sudden,” Roseman said.
The insects have been a problem in Pinellas County for several years, having migrated to the area from South Florida. The attacks have been periodic, with swarms reported and then subsiding.
Whitefly invasions were seen in Belleair Shore and other beach communities last fall, but they were mostly gone by February.
Now they are back, in force, said Roseman, who also co-hosts a weekly radio garden talk show.
According to Roseman, whitefly infestations spread mainly through the air, and a major means is through palm fronds and other infected foliage cuttings being left on the curb when the plants are trimmed. All cuttings should be bagged before disposal, she said.
Evidence of whitefly infestation are circular cobwebs and sooty material on palm fronds, said Roseman. This year’s invasion appears to be bad, the pest control companies’ bookings confirm.
The Pinellas County Extension Service reports whiteflies “can seriously injure plants by sucking nutrients from the plant causing wilting, yellowing, stunting, leaf drop, or even death.” They can attack a broad range of plants, including palms, woody ornamentals and fruits, said agent Jane Morse.
Dogs on the beach a problem
Another invasion, of dogs and bicycles on the beach, is occurring in the town. Neither is allowed in Belleair Shore, where residents own the beach in front of their homes up to the tide line.
Mayor John Robertson said dog owners walking their pets along the shore are crossing over from neighboring Indian Rocks Beach. Notices of beach regulations, including the dog prohibition, are posted at the town’s beach accesses, Robertson said. But there is no sign at the Indian Rocks Beach–Belleair Shore boundary. Indian Rocks Beach also does not allow dogs on the beach.
Sheriff’s deputy Cpl. Kenneth Euler urged the commission to put regulation notices at the town’s borders.
“If it is posted, that gives us the power to enforce,” he said.
Roseman said dogs illegally on the beach are a problem “mornings, afternoons, definitely on the weekends.”
Town Clerk Bonnie Dhonau will have town regulation signs made, and they will be posted at the boundaries. Sheriff’s deputy Scott Vaughn, who covers Belleair Shore, said he would step up enforcement of the no dogs rule. Violators can be cited and fined, he said.
Bicycling on the beach has also been an issue. Robertson said that too is not permitted.
“No bicycles – they are not allowed,” he said.
Weekly renter violates town law
Long-term rentals only are allowed in Belleair Shore, a town of upscale beachfront residences. But one house, at 1300 Gulf Blvd., has been a blatant violator. There, according to a neighbor, the occupants turn over weekly.
“There’s a new rental every week,” said Paul Haagman, who lives next door.
Haagman said the renters check out every Saturday, and new tenants arrive on Sunday.
“This has gone on for over a year, 48 out of 52 weeks. They switch out every week,” he said.
Despite letters being sent from the mayor to the property owner, the violations continue, Haagman said.
Town Attorney John Elias said enforcement is the issue, and the town’s special magistrate needs to be involved. He recommended a letter be sent to the owner, who also lives in Belleair Shore, telling him of the rental law violation and giving a time period to comply. If he does not, the case will go before the special magistrate, who can impose fines until the violations have ceased.