Whitefly, Whiteflies

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Despite their names, whiteflies aren't True Flies but a type of True Bug (order: Hemiptera). Within the order, you'll also find Scale insects and Aphids. Because they're closely related, they form the Suborder Sternorrhyncha. Insects in the above groups are regarded as pests in most cases. They're typically most problematic in terms of crop protection, however, can cause havoc in gardens and homes too. There are roughly 1,500 species of whitefly in total. What mainly sets them apart are their diets. Some species may feed on several plant families, yet others have specialised to feed only on a handful of plants. Read on to learn more about how to detect this type of insect, as well as the best tips, treatments and preventative strategies to help keep green spaces pest free!
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Whiteflies produce honeydew which encourages sooty moulds to develop on the plant.
Whiteflies have many natural enemies to help control their numbers.


Adults: The adults look like are tiny white-winged flies, that only measure around 2mm in length and will fly up on mass when an affected plant is disturbed. It may seem like they're covered in white, waxy dust. The young nymphs are flat and scale-like, light green in colour, and are immobile. The latter will grow until it forms a protective casing (cocoon/puparium). It hatches as a fully developed, winged-insect. Eggs are laid by the adult fly onto the underside of the leaf and are tiny white to cream or sometimes yellow; they're often arranged in a circle.


Tiny white-winged insects fly off the plant when disturbed. Sticky honeydew can be found on the upper-surface of the leaf, which may be colouring grey from sooty mould development. Some species are capable of spreading diseases between plants. Plants may lose vigour/ become weakened. Leaves can begin to turn yellow.












Biological treatment

Whitefly infestations tend to be more problematic indoors, for example, in a glasshouse setting. Planting rhubarb in greenhouses is thought to deter whitefly. Whitefly lay their eggs underneath the leaves of plants, so these areas should be inspected regularly. Any spacing between plants should be kept clear of weeds and debris. The use of netting can sometimes improve protection. For lighter infestations, plants can be gently hosed down to remove whitefly and eggs. Ant traps placed near affected plants will aid controlling any secondary infestations. Whitefly is drawn to the colour yellow. You can use yellow cards or sticky traps to attract whitefly and monitor the infestation level. Insecticidal soaps and neem oil can give some control over whitefly, and it's less harmful to the environment when compared with pesticides. Bottle labels should be read carefully. Oils can react badly with high temperatures and burn the surfaces of plants. Beneficial garden creatures such as beetles, wasps, lacewings and spiders will eat whiteflies. These can be attracted into the garden using a few simple tricks, such as incorporating insect hotels or by letting parts of the garden grow a little wild. All you need to do is provide enough food (pests) and cover, and the beneficial creatures soon follow!

Chemical treatment

There are pesticides available for home gardeners. Please be warned; whiteflies are capable of developing tolerances to the toxins found in sprays. Systemic insecticides can sometimes eliminate whitefly, be sure to get good coverage beneath the leaves (where the younger whitefly hide). Please read bottle instructions carefully, taking care not to spray any plants that are in flower. Such pesticides can be extremely toxic to wildlife, so should be applied with extreme caution.


Whiteflies tend to be attracted to plants undercover. In the garden, they seem to frequently infest cucumbers, beans, onions, peas, cabbages, tomatoes, geraniums and fuchsia.


Using companion planting of Tagetes species may be beneficial to reduce Whitefly attack. Yearly crop rotation is advisable.
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Knowledge and advice

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