The physical appearance of whiteflies will vary as there are different species that are available. They are tiny pests, with an average length of 1/12 inch. They have a triangular body, which you will often see in clusters. When they are adults, their body and wings are covered with wax. The color is usually yellow and has four white wings. During their nymph stage, on the other hand, they do not have visible legs and they lack wings as well. Lastly, when they are eggs, they are oblong and present on the underside of the leaves of their host plants.
Warm weather is attractive to white flies. Their population is the highest in spring and autumn. One lifecycle from egg to an adult can be completed in as short as 18 days. If you want to be sure if they are present in the garden, make sure to look out during daytime, which is when they are most active. They are common not only in outdoor gardens, but they can also thrive in green houses. More often than not, you can find them on the underside of the leaves of their hosts.
How to Identify Whitefly’s Damage
The plants affected by whiteflies will depend on their specific class or specie. For instance, Trialeurodes vaporariorum or greenhouse whitefly is common in crops, including tomatoes and potatoes. Generally, whiteflies affect more than 500 species of plants from 63 families. Other hosts include cauliflower, broccoli, avocado, pumpkin, watermelon, rose, cabbage chrysanthemum, guava, and sweet potato, among others.
Watch out for the following signs, which will give you an idea that whiteflies are present:
- Among others, the leaves are the ones that will show the most evident signs of infestation. They have sharp mouth parts that they will use to pierce the leaves. In turn, this will result in the appearance of holes and rough edges. This also minimizes the ability of plants to absorb nutrients, which will lead to discoloration. At its worst, it will fall and the host will end up suffering from defoliation.
- You will also notice the appearance of honeydew or a sticky substance on the leaves, although it can also appear on the other parts of the host. This sugary liquid will create a black sooty mold, which will make the plant unattractive.
- When there are lots of ants around the plant, this is also a sign of the presence of whiteflies. Ants gather around because of the sweet flavor of nectar.
- You also have to pay attention to the fruits. For instance, in the case of tomato, whiteflies can lead to irregular ripening. Fruits can also discolor or show signs of distortion.
Results of Infestation
Because this pest feeds direct on the plant and takes out the sap from the leaves, it deprives the plant of the nutrients that will be essential for its survival. Different species can bring different results in different hosts. For instance, silverleaf whitefly can lead to stem blanching, which is common in cruciferous vegetables. Plants can also be susceptible to viral diseases that are transmitted by whiteflies. Because of this, they will have a weak structure. They will wilt and die.
How to Get Rid of Whiteflies
Natural and Organic Solutions
Here are some of the solutions that will work without the need to worry about toxicity:
- The hand removal of whiteflies is one of the simplest methods to keep their population under control. Learn about their physical characteristics so that you can determine their presence. Take the out of the host plant and throw in a bucket with soapy water. You will deal not only with the insect, but also the plant where the damage is apparent. Prune the part with infestation so that the problem will not spread on the other parts of the plant.
- Biological control is another solution that holds a lot of promise. It will help to encourage the presence of natural enemies in the garden, which include minute pirate bugs, lady beetles, and lacewings. There are also some fungal pathogens that can deliver the same effect as beneficial birds and insects.
- There are also traps that will prove to be effective in the elimination of whiteflies. Yellow sticky traps, for instance, will make sure that the whiteflies will not be able to escape. Although they will not lead to complete elimination of the pest, at the very least, they can reduce their population.
- Vacuuming the whiteflies is another mechanical procedure that will work. A hand-held vacuum will suck the pest in all stages, including the eggs living under the leaves. Make sure to also dispose the whiteflies the right way Otherwise, they will return to their host.
- Companion planting is another excellent method for controlling the population of whiteflies, which is also a good preventive measure. Some of the best plants that you can have are Mexican and French marigolds. The smell of these flowers will help to naturally repel the whiteflies, keeping them away from the host plants.
- There are also natural sprays that you can use, which will make the excellent alternative for chemical solutions. A mixture of alcohol, soap, and water will make a good choice. Be sure to spray it on the host plant, especially the leaves.
As much as possible, you should stay away from the use of chemical insecticides. This is because many species of whiteflies are resistant to chemicals, which means that they will fight it off. Instead, it will only kill the beneficial insects in the garden, including those that will act as natural predators. In cases wherein you have to use an insecticide, be sure to achieve full coverage as you need to target the pest to kill them.
How to Prevent Whiteflies
Similar to the case of other pests, the best way to prevent whiteflies from spreading infestation is to keep the surroundings clean. You should also do what it takes to keep the plants healthy, which will allow it to tolerate the effects of pests. Mulching early in the season will also be a good idea. The use of an aluminum mulch, for instance, can be blinding for whiteflies, and hence, will effectively discourage their presence.