How To Get Rid Of White Flies In The Garden

Whiteflies, those small winged insects that settle under part of plant leaves in clusters, use their small size (1/12 of an inch) as a strategy for camouflage.

These winged insects share a close relation to aphids. Read on to learn more about getting rid of white flies.

Whiteflies on underside of plumeria leaves via Scot NelsonPin
Adult whiteflies on the underside of Plumeria leaves

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to get rid of whiteflies on plants
  • How to get rid of whiteflies naturally
  • How to get rid of whiteflies organically

The Species Of Whiteflies

Various whitefly species are usually identified by the plant you find them on. Let’s look at a few:

  • Greenhouse Whitefly – the most common, found mostly on fruit, vegetables, and ornamental or garden plants.
  • Citrus Whitefly –  Aleurocanthus woglumi – attacks citrus crops
  • Cabbage Whitefly – scientifically named Aleyrodes proletella – as the name suggests, the pest attacks the brassica species, including cabbages.
  • Silverleaf Whitefly – attacks poinsettia, also tomato whiteflies, peppers, squash, cucumber, beans, eggplant, watermelon, cabbage, and over 500 other species of plants

Identifying Whiteflies In The Garden

When adult whiteflies infest a plant, you’ll find them in “swarms” ingesting the plant juices. They then secrete “honeydew,” making the top, bottom, and undersides of leaves sticky or covered with a black sooty mold.

The ultimate result of these sticky substances or sooty mold formations weakens the plant and hinders photosynthesis production.

This leads to a withered plant as leaves begin to become dry, turn yellow, and finally fall off the plant.

When you check under the affected leaves, the pests have pricked and eaten the veins. Though difficult to view with the naked eye, you can “feel” the honeydew on the surface when touching the leaf. [source]

To check for the presence of a whitefly infestation, shake the plants to see if the white fly swarms in large numbers from the undersides of leaves.

Also, look where leaves appear whitish and lose their aesthetic value in the garden.

Neem Oil, Diatomaceous Earth, Lady Bugs

Natural Ways To Get Rid Of And Control Whiteflies

#1 – Implement the use of natural predators to control whitefly indirectly by planting flowering plants that attract predators such as lady beetles and lacewing larvae that will feed and control the whiteflies.

Related: Green Lacewings: How To Use Them For Garden Pest Control

#2 – Sometimes, controlling the pest requires other ways to effectively and naturally control them. Use yellow sticky traps on tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages and pepper plants.

Make your own by mixing petroleum jelly with a hand washing soap. Apply the mixture to strips of boards painted yellow. The color attracts the white fly leaving them stuck on the strips.

#3 – Using aluminum reflective mulch produces a reflection that deters the flies from attacking the plants.

#4 – For a minor infestation, blast plants with a strong water jet to chase the whiteflies away. The water can also get rid of garden pests like aphids.

As mentioned above, intermixing plants and flowers can attract an abundance of their natural enemies or beneficial insects for biological control.

However, if you notice an increase of whiteflies, avoid planting some host plants such as a lantana bush, hibiscus plants, and perennial Salvia plants where whitefly hang out.

The Advantages Of Natural Methods Include:

  • Pest control without harming the plant
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Cheap and cost-effective when done with commonly available items.

For example, using Nasturtiums as companion plants to “protect” tomatoes and gooseberries. Zinnias, Bee balm, and Pineapple Sage attract predators like hummingbirds, flies, encarsia formosa and parasitic wasps that eat whiteflies.

The use of insecticidal soaps, Neem insecticidal oil spray for whitefly or neem oil spray, sticky traps, and even Horticultural oil can provide an effective way of eliminating the bugs.

Related Reading: Using Ichneumon Wasps To Control Garden Pests Naturally

Using Insecticides For Whitefly Control

The use of chemical insecticides initially controlled the pest well. However, over time these sucking pests developed a resistance to some pesticides.

Plus, synthetic chemicals are regarded as unfriendly with associated negative environmental effects.

Most chemical pesticides produced in the lab and used to control pests harm the environment. Some kill other helpful insects, do not biodegrade, and remain on the leaves and fruits.

Use chemical insecticides only when heavy whitefly infestation occurs and the pest turns out to be pesticide resistant.

In such a case, various insecticides may need to be applied until the sap-sucking insects are eliminated.

Before embarking on natural control of whiteflies, start with a “clean” plant using something like neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Related: Whiteflies are known to spread Tomato Mosaic virus – Details.

The Life Cycle Of Whiteflies

Females lay 400 whitefly eggs on the underside of leaves. After they lay eggs, they take 5-10 days to hatch, which look like mealybugs. They don’t move much but stay where they feed for growth. 

Considering the high percentage of the eggs that hatch effectively into adults, this explains why the pest can infest a wide area in a short period. From laying of eggs to adult takes about 25 days.

If the whitefly population reaches a critical level, consider destroying the plants. Prevention and elimination of whitefly require regular, proactive inspecting of houseplants.

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