How to Get Rid of Whiteflies
Whiteflies are a short-lived tropical and subtropical insect found in the warmest regions throughout the world where they indiscriminately feed on any plant requiring year round warmth and humidity.
In cold regions where they could not possibly overwinter, whiteflies are notoriously known to infest indoor houseplants and greenhouses to stay protected from outdoor conditions. Whiteflies are not choosy and known to infest more than 250 greenhouse staples including tomato, cucumber, bean, hibiscus, orchid, and citrus.
Similar to aphids and mites, whiteflies are sap-sucking insects that feed on the nutrients of a host plant rather than eating the plant and foliage directly like much larger garden pests. Although whitefly infestations can be a nuisance, they are soft-bodied insects able to be eradicated in minutes.
What Are Whiteflies?
What Do Whiteflies Look Like?
Immature whiteflies can be inconspicuous and difficult to identify because they change appearance 5 times throughout their brief lifecycle before reaching adult stage. Newly hatched larval instar whiteflies (nymphs) are translucent, round, wingless, and look closer to a scale insect than a mature whitefly.
After about 8-15 days, whitefly nymphs become fully developed and will express their adult features. Adult whiteflies are oblong, thin, pale yellow, and have an easily identifiable large set of white-colored wings, similar in appearance to thrips.
Species of whitefly that are multi-colored and have striped or patterned wings are generally not a pest.
What Do Whiteflies Eat in the Garden?
Whiteflies are notoriously found in greenhouses and indoor houseplants across the world and are not choosy as to what they feed on.
Whiteflies have been found to prefer more than 250 different species of ornamental flowers, fruits, vegetables, and trees commonly grown in the greenhouse including tomato, cucumber, bean, hibiscus, aster, and orchids.
The second most pervasive species of whitefly in the country known as sweet potato whitefly has a far more extensive diet including watermelon, eggplant, pepper, squash, and nearly all brassicas. And like other smaller pests, whiteflies are sap-sucking and do not eat any foliage or leaf directly.
How To Get Rid of Whiteflies
Whiteflies are a delicate and soft-bodied insect able to be easily sprayed off with a high pressure hose. Infested houseplants can be brought outside and completely eradicated of eggs, larvae, and adults in under a minute if using a high pressure hose.
Another popular method is to purchase a store-bought whitefly sticky trap which can be hung immediately near any problematic areas in the garden or home.
Whitefly infestations may also be treated by creating a solution spray by adding a tablespoon or so of either castile soap, dish soap, or 70% isopropyl alcohol to about a liter of water. Spray as needed throughout the season.