While they don’t look particularly harmful, and you might not even notice them around your plants, whiteflies can be quite dangerous.
They’re related to mealybugs and aphids, although they got their name from the white powder that covers their bodies. Whiteflies cause plants to wilt, which results in yellow leaves and eventual death.
Which plants are susceptible to whiteflies? You can find whiteflies on various plants, such as ornamental flowering plants and vegetables. Examples include citrus trees, tomato plants, and common houseplants with smooth and soft leaves.
In this article, I’ll explore what whiteflies are, how to identify them in your garden, and the most effective methods to eliminate them. I’ll also provide tips on how to ensure that you keep whiteflies away from your plants for good.
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What Are Whiteflies?
Whiteflies are small insects that suck sap from plants. They grow to between 1.5 to 2.5 mm in size, making them difficult to spot immediately. They thrive in warm-weather conditions and are difficult to control when their numbers are high.
How to Identify Whiteflies
Adult white flies have white wings and soft cream-colored bodies that are a bit triangular. They look a bit like tiny moths.
You should feel plant leaves for any sticky substances because whiteflies produce honeydew, a liquid substance that they leave behind on leaves, which can lead to fungal diseases that also appear on the leaves.
This can help you to identify a whitefly problem on your plants if you can’t see the insects themselves.
White Fly Eggs
Adult female whiteflies can produce 200 to 400 eggs in their lifetime, which is about 30–40 days. These eggs hatch into nymphs after 4-12 days. The eggs are pale yellow at first, before turning brown just before they hatch.
Whiteflies lay their eggs in a circular pattern, and they look like tiny specks underneath the plant leaves.
White Fly Larvae
When whitefly eggs hatch, the larvae resemble white spots. Even though they are too young to move, they can already start sucking plant juice, causing damage to your plants.
Where Do They Hide?
Whiteflies like to take cover under the leaves of plants, where they tend to hide in clusters. Luckily, since they are whiteish in color, they’re easily visible against green plants if you take a closer look.
Check plants for them during the day—they’re most active then.
Seven Methods To Get Rid Of White Flies
If your plants are being attacked by whiteflies, you’ll be able to tell by noticing the following symptoms:
- Weak plant growth
- Yellow, spotty leaves
- Black, sooty mold fungus on leaves
- Fallen leaves
- Ants around your plant—they are attracted to honeydew
Below are the most effective ways to get rid of whiteflies from your garden.
You can make your own anti-whitefly solution with vinegar. This is a common home remedy that works effectively to remove whiteflies and other insects from your plants. Apple cider vinegar is especially useful in this regard, as its smell repels bugs.
Fill a spray bottle with half water and half vinegar, then spray it around your plants. Note that you shouldn’t spray the vinegar directly on plants as this can damage them.
Liquid Dish Soap
If you’re worried about spraying vinegar around your plants, you can make a solution with water and liquid dish soap. Mix together a tablespoon of liquid dish soap in one gallon of water. Stir it well and put it in a spray bottle.
Spray it all over your plants that are infested with whiteflies. This soap is safe to use to remove the bugs—you can even soak the leaves in it without damaging your plants.
You should spray plants every few days to ensure you get any whiteflies that have hatched since the last time you sprayed them.
This alcohol works effectively to remove a variety of pests, such as whiteflies, scale insects, red spider mites, and fungus—mix 125 ml of rubbing alcohol in a quart of water and put it in a spray bottle.
Test this solution on a small area of an infested plant and wait a day to see how the plant reacts. If the plant doesn’t show any negative symptoms, it’s safe to spray the entire plant with the rubbing alcohol solution.
You can reapply it to your plants at three-day intervals, which is ideal for large whitefly infestations.
If you’re dealing with a large whitefly infestation, you might need a stronger whitefly solution; an insecticidal soap can work well. Make your own DIY insecticidal soap by stirring one tablespoon of castile soap in one quart of water.
This works well because the soap is sticky and produces a coating on adult whiteflies, their larvae, and eggs. You should apply this soap early in the morning or evening and repeat it whenever necessary.
Since whiteflies have gained resistance against chemical insecticides, a DIY insecticidal soap will work better to eliminate them.
Neem oil is a natural insecticide found inside the seeds of neem trees. It has a garlic smell and a bitter taste, which is why it’s been used for centuries to control pests.
It’s useful for eliminating any whiteflies you can see and spray directly with the oil. Make sure you soak them with this solution. You might also have to repeat the application.
Don’t worry about its toxicity because neem oil is non-toxic. This is what makes it such a great bug spray for the garden.
To make a neem oil solution, mix neem oil with a gallon of water and a teaspoon of soap, the latter of which will help to emulsify the solution. Put this solution in a spray bottle and spray your plants.
Plants That Repel Whiteflies
Placing plants that naturally repel whiteflies around your garden is a great way for you to control and prevent whiteflies without using any substances.
An example of a plant that repels whiteflies is rhubarb. This has a strong scent that whiteflies dislike.
Other plants that repel whiteflies also have strong scents that repel whiteflies, such as:
A hand vacuum can quickly remove any whiteflies you can see on your plant’s leaves. Gently hold the plant as you let the vacuum cleaner suck the insects from the leaves.
What you’ll love about this method is that you can use it to remove adult whiteflies as well as larvae.
Once you’ve removed the pests, you’ll need to seal the vacuum bag in an airtight plastic bag. Store the bag in the freezer for 24 hours. This will successfully kill the insects.
How to Make Sure White Flies Don’t Come Back
Now that you’ve eliminated white flies from your plants, you definitely want to guarantee they won’t come back. Here are the most effective ways to prevent white flies from attacking your plants in the future.
- When purchasing new plants, make sure you check them for any pests before you take them home.
- Attract natural predators that feed on whiteflies to your garden. Examples of natural predators include dragonflies and ladybugs. Both like pollen, so you can attract both to your garden with plants that contain pollen, such as sunflowers, daisies, and chrysanthemums.
- Add mulch to your plants early in the growing season. Make use of aluminum reflective mulch, as this makes it difficult for white flies to land on plants.
- Keep your plants healthy. This will allow them to fight whitefly and other pest infestations on their own. Water and fertilize them regularly to give them the nutrients they need to be healthy and strong. Keep an eye on any potting soil that’s gone bad, as this can also cause soil imbalances and attract pests.
- Add earthworm castings to your plant. These repel whiteflies and function as organic fertilizer for your plants. You can even sprinkle them directly on your plant leaves. They repel whiteflies because they increase the chitinase enzyme in the plants, which is distasteful to these pests.
If your plants are being attacked by whiteflies, you might see these tiny pests on your plants during the day. Removing them quickly is crucial because they can damage plants, whether they’re larvae or adult pests.
In this article, we’ve featured some of the best methods to eliminate whiteflies so that you can bring your plants back to life. We’ve also looked at how to keep whiteflies away from your plants in the future.
Remember, always be on the lookout. Happy gardening!