Whitefly Identification

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What’s a Whitefly?

Whiteflies are one of the most serious threats to crops.

Although all whiteflies tend to look alike, there are two major types, the greenhouse whitefly and the silver leaf whitefly. Adult greenhouse whiteflies are slightly less than 1/8 inch long. They have a white, waxy coating and hold their wings parallel to the leaf surface. Adult silver leaf whiteflies are a bit smaller than the greenhouse whitefly and they have a yellowish hue to them. When Whiteflies become a problem, call and schedule your Whitefly Control Service.

Eating Habits:

Whitefly adults are multi-taskers: the females eat and lay eggs at the same time. They feed on the underside of leaves by inserting their short, needlelike beak into the foliage and sucking out the plant juices.

Plant Damage:

Whiteflies can seriously injure host plants by sucking juices from them causing wilting, yellowing, stunting, leaf drop, or even death. Typical of most sap feeders, whiteflies must eat large quantities of dilute sap in order to obtain the necessary nutrients. All that liquid and excess sugar ends up being excreted as shiny, sticky honeydew that may detract from the plant’s appearance or lead to black sooty mold that grows on the foliage.

Life Cycle:

Female adult whiteflies don’t bother to stop eating to lay eggs so they turn on their beak as they feed and consequently end up laying eggs in a semicircle around the feeding site. After 5 to 7 days the eggs hatch into tiny pale green immatures called nymphs. These crawl a short distance before settling down to feed in one place for the rest of their life. Nymphs suck out large quantities of plant sap for 2 to 3 weeks and then go into a non-feeding resting stage while they transform to adults. In 4 to 6 weeks the entire process from egg to adult is completed and ready to start again.

Corky's White Fly Identification
Corky's White Fly Identification

Whiteflies spread diseases to plants

Giant Whitefly

The giant whitefly also known as the Mexican whitefly has been migrating into California and making an ugly mess of hibiscus and other landscape ornamentals. It was first discovered in San Diego County in 1992. It is now found in Southern California, parts of Arizona, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida. Giant whitefly gets its name from its large size (adults can be up to 3/16 inch long) as compared to other species. It can be identified by filaments of wax which are deposited by adults as they walk on upper and lower surfaces of leaves. Eggs are often laid within these waxy deposits on the underside of leaves. The nymphs produce long, hair-like filaments of wax up to 2 inches long, giving leaves a bearded appearance.

Greenhouse Whitefly

The greenhouse whitefly is a common insect pest in greenhouses, on house plants and on garden plants during the summer. This insect can infest more than 250 ornamental and vegetable plants. Poinsettia, begonia, nicotiana, aster, calendula, cucumber, lantana, tomato, grape, ageratum, bean and hibiscus are commonly infested. The familiar form is the white, winged adult (less than 1/8 inch long). Most infestations come from adult females moving to new plants.

Silver Leaf Whitefly

Also known as the sweet potato whitefly, it is smaller than the greenhouse species and has a yellowish hue to its’ body and white wings. Populations persist in California’s southern deserts, primarily the Imperial, Palo Verde and Coachella valleys. They also are found in the southern San Joaquin Valley, where their impact is mostly on cotton crops. Favorite hosts include melons, broccoli, cabbage, cotton, squash and a number of ornamental (e.g., poinsettia) and native plant species. This species can transmit several viral plant diseases.

Whitefly Alert!

Whiteflies can seem to come out of nowhere all of a sudden. They are easy to identify. When you move or water your plants and you see what looks like an instant snowstorm with minute things flitting all over, you’ve got whiteflies.

At the first sign of these messy, destructive pests, contact us. We’ll be able to inspect your property, perform identification, and recommend a course of action.