10 Facts On... Whiteflies

By Philip McIntosh | Published: April 1, 2018
Key Takeaways

In some ways, whiteflies are deceptive. Case in point: they are not really flies. One thing you can be certain of, however, is that whiteflies are one of the most destructive of plant pests out there.

  1. There are many species of whitefly, including the greenhouse whitefly, the sweet potato or silverleaf whitefly, and the bandwinged whitefly. Which species you may find in your growroom depends on the environment and the kinds of plants available for them to feed on.
  2. Whiteflies are white because of a waxy bloom that covers their wings. The purpose of this powdery substance may be to enhance flight or to aid in thermoregulation.
  3. The powdery wings have led to genus names such as Aleuroduplidens and Trialeurodes, which contain the Greek root aleurodes meaning “flour-like.”
  4. Like most of their fellow true bugs (the hemipterans, which includes no true flies), whiteflies feed on plant sap with their sucking mouth parts, usually on the underside of leaves.
  5. Whitefly damage appears as yellow mottling on leaves. It leads to stunted growth and leaf drop.
  6. Like their cousins the aphids, whiteflies can secrete a honeydew that other insects may find attractive and that is also a substrate for mold growth.
  7. Whiteflies cannot survive freezing temperatures, so they are only found in controlled environments during cold winters.
  8. Their small size and narrow form makes whiteflies difficult to exclude even with fine-mesh screens.
  9. Neem and other horticultural oils are effective against the nymph stages, and pyrethrin can be used on adults, but whitefly resistance to standard pesticides is common.
  10. Whiteflies seem to prefer lighter-colored leaves, which may explain why they are so attracted to white or yellow sticky traps.

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Pest Control

Written by Philip McIntosh | Science & Technology Writer, Teacher

Profile Picture of Philip McIntosh
Philip McIntosh is a science and technology writer with a bachelor’s degree in botany and chemistry and a master’s degree in biological science. During his graduate research, he used hydroponic techniques to grow axenic plants. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he teaches mathematics.

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