How to Control Whiteflies

John C. French Sr., Retired, Universities: Auburn, GA, Clemson and U of MO, Bugwood.org

What are whiteflies?

Whiteflies belong to the same group of insects as aphids and scales. They not only cause damage by feeding, but can also transmit plant viruses and other diseases. Whiteflies reproduce quickly once summer heat arrives, intensifying infestations. The tiny, white moth-like insect is only 1/20 inch long and fly around in chaotic swarms when disturbed. Females can lay between 200 and 400 eggs, and there are often multiple generations at once on a single plant.

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Signs Of Problems

It’s usually pretty obvious when you have a bad case of whiteflies. They congregate on the undersides of leaves and when the plant is disturbed, you get swarming clouds of tiny white bugs.  Give your plant a shake and you’ll have no doubt if Whiteflies are present.

Also look for:

  • Yellowing leaves
  • Dropping leaves
  • Microscopic nymphs (immature stage before pest turns into flying adults) that look like tiny, white, oval scale
  • Sticky, often black, sometimes dripping honeydew on leaves

Whiteflies Can Infest Many Types Plants

There are countless species of Whitefly feeding on more than 500 species of host plants, including many ornamentals, vegetables and fruiting trees. They include Citrus Whitefly, Ficus Whitefly, Ash Whitefly, Greenhouse Whitefly, Silverleaf Whitefly and Rugosa Spiraling Whitefly.

Trees that can be infested with whiteflies include ash, avocado, chinaberry, citrus, fig, fringe tree, mulberry, privet and various palms. They also love roses, hibiscus, fuchsia, lantana, petunias and other flowers.  Many vegetables, including tomatoes, squash, peppers and cucumbers can be infested with Whiteflies.  Whiteflies can also be a problem on houseplants. Damage to edible and ornamental plants is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide.

Where Are Whiteflies Most Troublesome?

Whiteflies can be problems almost anywhere but are particularly troublesome in mild winter areas, such as Florida, Texas, the Gulf Coast and California, where they can breed year-round. They can also be serious pests in greenhouses.

Controlling Whiteflies

Beneficial insects and yellow sticky traps can help control Whiteflies, but severe infestations usually require insecticidal treatments, such as the Natria products shown here. Always read and follow label instructions.

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