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Do you see some small and white insects resembling flies on the plants in your garden? This could be a case of whitefly infestation.
What can you do with the whiteflies infesting your garden? Let’s find the answer through this article.
Whiteflies refer to winged and soft-bodied insects that have a strong connection to mealybugs and aphids. Note, though, that even if they have whitefly as their name, you can’t still classify them as a kind of fly.
One major characteristic of the whitefly is its small size and kind of triangular shape. You can usually find them in groups, specifically on the leaves and their undersides.
Whiteflies are also among those insects known to be active when it is daytime. They have this tendency to scatter or spread out once you get to disturb them, promoting ease in spotting them. They are a lot easier to detect compared to nocturnal insects and other pests.
Common Whitefly Species
Note that whiteflies come in several species with the majority of them affecting only minor amounts of host plants. Unfortunately, a few of these species are also capable of negatively affecting a huge number of plants, causing problems in your garden.
Among the most problematic whitefly species are the greenhouse, giant, Silverleaf, and banded winged whitefly. The most common species in the Southern US is the Silverleaf whitefly, which is a bit smaller plus holds a more yellowish color compared to the others.
This species is considered the most economically vital whitefly in entire Texas. It is smaller compared to other whiteflies as unlike them that hold their wings in an almost flat position when at rest, the Silverleaf holds its wings in a roof-like position.
Adult Silverleaf whiteflies can grow at around 0.8 to 1.2 millimeters long and feature white wings with no markings. Their bodies are also pale yellow.
The greenhouse species can only be seen occasionally but when they appear, you can mostly find them in greenhouses. Adult whiteflies in this species are quite similar in size to the Silverleaf. They have wings that are held almost parallel to their leaves, covering their abdomen during rest.
You can often find banded winged whitefly occasionally in ornamentals, like hibiscus, and some crops. Adults are often a bit bigger compared to the greenhouse and silver species. You can also easily recognize them because they have two gray bands in an irregular shape that appear in front of their two wings.
This species has whitefly adults that are thrice as large compared to other whiteflies. You can often see their wings overlapping during rest. Their pair of wings also come mottled with gray markings.
Primary Causes of Whitefly Infestation
There are several possible causes of a whitefly-infested plant – among which are the following:
This may cause plants to suffer from water stress, naturally leading to the infestation. If you are living in a place with dry and hot summers or you tend to forget to water other plants outdoors regularly, it can lead to dehydration. This may increase common greenhouse pest prevalence, including whitefly.
Excessive use of insecticides
The reason behind this is that there are non-specific insecticides that are incapable of targeting certain types of insects. If you douse your garden with huge amounts of them, it is highly likely for you to wipe out all tiny white flying bugs present, including predatory and beneficial species.
This means that other beneficial pests and insects that can repel whiteflies may also be exterminated during insecticide treatment. The result is the thriving of more whiteflies in your garden.
Constant use of fertilizers rich in nitrogen
Of course, nitrogen fertilizers are good for your plant as such can boost overall vitality and health. Spreading these fertilizers on your garden and flower beds will definitely keep them as healthy as possible.
The problem is that such fertilizers may also further encourage whiteflies to cause damage to any plant by attacking them. The excessive use of the fertilizer causes higher nitrogen concentration on plant tissues, thereby attracting more whiteflies and causing frequent whitefly infestations. This can only harm plants even further, which is not what you intend to do.
Other Possible Causes
While whiteflies come from various sources, other apparent triggers of their existence include the following:
- Taking a new plant with whiteflies home
- Use of contaminated potting soil
- Transferring houseplants outdoors once the summer season comes
- Taking herbs, fresh flowering plants, fruits, or veggies from your garden indoors
The small sizes of whiteflies may also cause them to come indoors through the window screens, thereby penetrating your houseplants and indoor plants.
Signs of Whitefly-infested Plants
To detect the presence of whitefly on your plant, you have to watch out for certain signs. Note that whiteflies can naturally produce this honeydew substance causing the leaf surfaces of your plant to feel sticky.
It is highly likely for the sticky substance to encourage the presence of black sooty mold. The presence of this black sooty mold can provide the leaves with unattractive black color. A large whitefly infestation may also cause huge groups of tiny white bugs to crawl on the undersides of the plants’ leaves.
In addition to whiteflies circling your garden and indoor houseplants, there is also a tendency for more ants to appear since they are among those insects that feed on the sticky honeydew. The presence of the sweet substance produced by the whitefly can lead to attracting more ants.
Whitefly may also cause other plants to have stunted growth. It is because whether you have young or adult whiteflies around, they will still feed on your houseplants’ sap, sucking all their nutrients. As whiteflies feed on the plant sap, it would result in a weaker plant without any more energy for proper and healthy growth.
How to Get Rid of Whiteflies on Garden and Indoor Plants?
One way to control and prevent whiteflies is to build a strong defense. You need vigorous and healthy plants as they are less prone to infestation compared to underpotted, stressed, and weak ones.
If your garden and indoor plants start showing whiteflies, you can rest assured that there are a few solutions for them. Here’s how you can get rid of these annoying pests from your garden and houseplants. Most of these solutions can cause whitefly damage, thereby ensuring that the insects will no longer cause harm to your garden.
Spray with water
An effective way in dealing with whiteflies is to use water. What you should do is gently spray the affected plant with water, so you can dislodge the whitefly eggs and nymphs.
The whitefly nymphs can’t still move after they go through the initial creeping stage, so it is highly likely for them to starve and die once you take them out of their source of food.
You may also use the hose attachment of your vacuum cleaner. This helps suck up adult whiteflies, though, you have to be extra careful when doing this to avoid damaging your plant.
Ensure that all newly hatched whiteflies will have no means of escaping from the vacuum bag.
Attract beneficial insects
The beneficial insects we are talking about here refer to insects that serve as natural predators or enemies of whiteflies. Some examples of these natural enemies of whiteflies are spiders, parasitic wasps, and ladybug beetles. They can help in exterminating annoying insects.
The problem with these insects, though, is that they usually get killed whenever you treat your plant and garden with insecticides. This may lead to the whiteflies infesting your garden again. With that, you have to be extra careful when using insecticides and ensure that you won’t harm beneficial insects along the process.
Apply neem oil
Mainly taken from the neem tree, neem oil is also one of the best solutions for whiteflies. Aside from containing plenty of insecticidal properties, neem oil also serves as a fungicide with systemic benefits, which means that the plant can absorb some oil, providing persistent protection.
The good thing about neem oil is that it is proven to be safe to use on food plants, ornamentals, and vegetables. You can use neem oil to control the population of whitefly, though, it would take a lot of applications for you to finally get rid of the problem.
Water with a hydrogen peroxide solution
You can also kill whitefly larvae with the help of a hydrogen peroxide solution. You just have to create this solution by mixing four parts of water with one part of hydrogen peroxide or around 3% solution.
Once the solution is already made, pour it into the soil. After watering the soil with it, expect to notice some bubbling, which indicates that it is already working and on its way to get rid of whiteflies.
Expose to soapy water
You also get the chance to get rid of whiteflies by putting on soapy water on the affected plants. Used correctly, you can deter whiteflies with it. To create the soapy water, you need one gallon of water and two tablespoons of liquid dish soap or an insecticidal soap.
Mix the two well. Pour this solution into a spray bottle then use it in spraying the underside of the damaged leaf. You can increase your chance to completely eradicate the white flies by repeating the use of it every 2 to 3 days.
The use of soapy water can treat insect and pest infestations, like aphids and whiteflies. It is effective in killing them, especially their eggs and the ones that lay eggs. The fact that you also use a pressure spray bottle for this means that you easily knock off tiny white bugs from the leaves.
If you decide to use soap sprays to control whiteflies and other insects, it is advisable to do the application early morning. You may also do it in the evening. This is necessary for preventing dish or insecticidal soap residues on leaves that may only burn them when the sun is too strong.
Apply pyrethrin spray
Generally, it would be best for you to avoid the use of synthetic chemical pesticides when dealing with problems with your indoor plants. Despite that, there is a particular spray that is safe to use when planning to get rid of whiteflies – the pyrethrin spray.
It is generally safe since its active ingredient is naturally extracted from chrysanthemum flowers. Note, though, that there are pesticides often with pyrethroids labels that contain chemicals.
These chemicals are usually added to pure and organic pyrethrin as a means of boosting the pesticide’s functions. Remember that you can’t classify them as organic pesticides, which means you should be extra careful when using them.
Before investing in pesticides, spend time reading the label instructions carefully. Ensure that it is organic and pure plus mainly designed in controlling white flies.
Add reflective mulch
You can also keep whitefly away from your garden with the help of a reflective plastic mulch. All you have to do is to spread this mulch around the host plants of pests and insects. Doing so aids in reducing whitefly populations while protecting your plants from attacks.
The reason is that they can confuse bugs. With that, you can prevent whiteflies and bugs from getting into your plants, making it hard for them to cause infestations.
Put yellow sticky traps
By putting some yellow sticky traps, it is possible to lessen the number of whiteflies present in your infested greenhouse environments and garden. The main reason is that these sticky traps are made in such a way that they can capture all whiteflies coming close to your plants.
The traps can, therefore, stop such insects from landing on your plants and causing infestations. You can also use the traps in monitoring the whitefly population, thereby promoting ease in figuring out whether the numbers are increasing without the need for close inspection.
In addition to the mentioned solutions, it also helps you to do something to prevent the whitefly infestation from happening in the first place. Among the preventive measures you can do, in this case, are the following:
- Inspect plants closely, especially new ones that you intend to bring home – Isolate new ones for several days, separating them from the others. This is to make sure that they do not bring in whiteflies that may only infest the plants already existing in your garden.
- Take plants outdoors every summer – This is the time when natural predators, like lacewings and ladybugs, will feed on the larvae of whiteflies. Ensure that you carefully spray them with neem oil or pyrethrin before returning them indoors during the winter.
- Do companion planting – Note that there are plants that emit odors capable of repelling whiteflies. These include sage, cilantro, and mint. Try to do companion planting using the mentioned plants to keep whiteflies under control.
- Do not use chemical insecticides – Most whiteflies are naturally resistant to chemical insecticides, so they won’t be of help in preventing and controlling their population. These insecticides may also only kill beneficial insects, the natural predators of whiteflies, as well as the insects pollinating your garden to promote a good harvest.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Will vinegar kill whiteflies on plants?
Yes. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most highly recommended home remedies for whiteflies that damage plants. Make sure to buy and use pure vinegar.
All it takes for you to start using it would be to dilute it in water (equal parts) then spray this solution on the houseplants. This solution is often enough in killing whiteflies.
What are the plants that are more susceptible to whiteflies?
Several plants are prone to get infested with whiteflies, including ornamental flowers. Some of these ornamentals, like poinsettia, hibiscus, and roses are grown and cultivated in greenhouses. Whiteflies can also put bedding plants, like petunia, salvia, begonia, and fuchsia at risk.
In addition, they can affect vegetables that love the warm weather, such as okra, pepper, eggplant, and tomatoes. There are also whitefly species that can damage susceptible plants that belong to the cabbage family, as well as citrus trees and sweet potatoes.
As for indoor plants, the most common ones affected by these unwanted insects are houseplants, particularly those possessing smooth and soft leaves.
What is the usual lifecycle of whiteflies?
The whole lifecycle of whiteflies can be expected to last for only 22 days. However, a plant infested with it usually displays all its lifecycle phases simultaneously. This means that if you don’t treat them, it is highly likely for the infestation to become a permanent thing.
This can further result in the constant hatching of new whitefly eggs and the development of new larvae. The constant formation of new larvae can develop new whitefly adults that can lay eggs in an even higher amount and more persistent manner.
Whiteflies on plants may cause damage to your entire garden just like fungal diseases and other problems affecting plants. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with them. With the help of the solutions indicated in this article, you can finally get rid of whiteflies or even prevent their infestation on your indoor and outdoor plants in the first place.