What do whiteflies look like is the single most asked questioning in gardening that helps identify and eliminate these pests in good time.
Pests are not a friend to any gardener; in fact, they are a nightmare that no one wants to deal with. They can finish your plants in a few days and destroy your product if not identified and destroyed early.
Whitefly is one of the most common and damaging pests to any plant. Their population explodes fast and causes serious infestations. Once they invade your garden, they can be tough to eliminate, so the earlier you identify them, the better your chances of eliminating them.
What Do Whiteflies Look Like?
Whiteflies are soft-bodied winged insects that are related to aphids and mealybugs. Though they have wings, they do not have the ability to fly. These pests are small in size, about ½ inch long, and somewhat triangular in shape. They are found in clusters on the underside of leaves. They are active during the day and scatters away when disturbed.
Whiteflies are the same as aphids in the kind of damage they can cause. They both have piercing-sucking mouthparts that they can use to extract plant sap, which causes foliage damage and stunted growth. They release a sticky substance known as honeydew; it promotes fungal diseases like the black sooty mold.
Whiteflies have hundreds of species, but most affect only a small number of host plants. However, a few whitefly species affect a wider range of plants, making them problematic in gardening.
These whitefly species include:
- Silverleaf whitefly
- Greenhouse whitefly
- Giant whitefly
- Banded winged whitefly
Silverleaf whiteflies are slightly smaller and more yellow than the others and common in the southern United States.
If not treated, a whitefly infestation causes more severe problems. Leaves begin to turn pale or yellow and wilt. They eventually fall off and die. As leaves drop, plants are unable to perform the photosynthesis process and become further weakened. Whiteflies transmit harmful plant viruses, and in extreme cases, cause plant death.
Where Are Whiteflies Found?
Whiteflies are not able to tolerate the winter climate outdoors. They will be found in indoor plants or greenhouse environments during the winter in zones 7 and colder.
In warmer areas, whiteflies are capable of reproducing outdoors throughout the year. They are also found outdoors seasonally, especially when the weather is warm. This makes them a big problem for both indoor and outdoor plants.
Whiteflies begin to appear in mid-to late-summer when it gets warm and humid.
Whiteflies are outdoor and indoor pests that thrive on most plants, especially ones with soft, smooth leaves. They don’t live in soil and won’t harm humans. Whiteflies increase in numbers in mid to late summer when it gets warm and humid. However, there’s a risk of bringing them home on a plant from an infested outdoor plant or greenhouse.
Whitefly Control And Elimination
Now that you know how whiteflies look on your plants, it’s best to eliminate them as fast as possible. The more you delay, the more they reproduce, and it can be difficult to eradicate them.
Try these tips:
Spray With Water
The first simple way to destroy these flies is to spray plants with water gently. This will dislodge whitefly eggs and nymphs from the plant. Nymphs don’t move after the initial creeping phase, so they will starve and die when removed from their food source.
Keep Your Plant Leaves Clean
To control honeydew and mold, always keep your leaves clean by wiping down affected leaves with a damp cloth or spray with water.
Use Insecticidal Soap
If your plants are suffering from heavy infestations, use insecticidal soap. You can make your own by mixing 1 quart of water with 1 tablespoon of Castile soap. The insecticidal soap coats the eggs, larvae, and adults and suffocates them to death. Apply this solution early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler, and repeat according to instructions if required.
Try Horticultural Oil
Besides the insecticidal soap, you can use oils like neem oil that are effective. This remedy kills whiteflies at all life stages and discourages black sooty mold.
Attract Natural Predators
Natural beneficial insects prey on whiteflies offering natural pest control. These natural predators include dragonflies, ladybugs, whitefly parasite wasp, and green lacewings. Create a habitat that will attract and support these benefactors. Plant flowers to attract hummingbirds that can also feed on whiteflies.
Use Yellow Sticky Traps
Yellow sticky traps can detect and control pests for both outdoor and indoor infestations. Whiteflies are attracted to the yellow color on the sticky traps and become stuck to the glue-like substance. This remedy also works for other pests, including thrips, aphids, and fungus gnats. You can also make your own sticky traps by coating yellow index cards on one side with petroleum jelly. Set them near your plants and watch them at work. While they may not be as effective as the store-bought ones, they can catch some as well as alert you to their presence.
How To Prevent Whiteflies Infestation
The most effective way to control whitefly is through prevention. ‘Prevention is better than cure.’ How do you do it?
- Inspect Your Plants Regularly. While undertaking regular gardening chores like watering and fertilizer, make it a part of your routine to inspect your plants weekly. It will help you detect problems early on. Focus on the most vulnerable plants.
- Keep Plants Healthy. Healthy plants ward off pests and diseases, but unhealthy plants attract diseases and pests.
- Inspect New Plants. Any purchased plants should be carefully inspected before bringing them home.
Now that you know what whiteflies look like and how to eliminate them, it’s important to know what plants are commonly affected. The most affected food crops are brassica, beans, citrus, cucumber, okra, eggplant, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and squash.
Anytime you are growing these plants carefully observe them for pests, and the earlier you notice any, the better to start the treatment process.
Ornamental plants and greenhouse-grown plants that are most affected include poinsettia, hibiscus, roses, fuchsia, begonia, and salvia.
Please do not ignore any sign for whiteflies, no matter how tiny it is. If you ignore the few you see around your plants, they will soon grow and reproduce to a number you will not be able to eradicate.