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Whitefly Control: How to be More Aggressive with these Pests

A house with a garden gives it a very fresh look from the outside and provides a healthy environment on the inside. Ornamental plants and vegetables are the common choice for avid gardeners making the entire process of creating and maintaining a garden difficult.

Adding to the difficulties would be the possibility of a white fly infestation because of the plant composition of this type of garden. Plant sap is the main reason why these little bugs thrive in such a place.

They feed on the sap and excrete honeydew that lands on the leaves which causes chlorosis because it restricts the leaves nutrient absorption ability. The lack of nutrition will slowly kill their cells until the time the entire part will die.

Getting rid of this problem won’t be easy especially on an outbreak. But first off, you must know when your garden is home to whiteflies and be able to assess the level of infestation. Identification is key before you begin your pest management practices.

Life of a Whitefly

These pests love the same warm environment that plants love as well. This is why tropical locations have the biggest populations of these pests. Another whitefly hotspot are greenhouses since these facilities trap heat in.

You can’t miss seeing a group of whiteflies because a fully-matured whitefly is tiny with powder white wings and can be found on the undersides of leaves feeding on it. You’ll find them in clouds when they’re feeding and still with their cloud when you disturb them during their feeding session.

Also when you look under plant leaves you might see their larva and eggs as well. If you see a flat-shaped minute insect with no legs and a translucent body then you’ve found crawler (larvae) groups. Whitefly eggs are gray/yellow cones the size of a point written on a piece of paper.

Populating and repopulation is fast because a pregnant whitefly may lay as much as 200 eggs that can hatch in just eight days. Once hatched the nymphs undergo a four-stage maturation cycle before they become an adult. They survive for only a month from birth, development to death.

If their natural enemies are gone, these insects can quickly increase in number causing damages to your precious garden. It’s important to know the damage it will deal so that you won’t mistake it from another insect doing the attack.

Damaging effects

From the moment they hatch, these whiteflies immediately start to suck the sap found in the leaves where they were born. This allows the larvae to develop to become a full fledged adult. Once they become adults they fly from leaf to leaf to drink more and more plant juices.

Each time the plant gets sapped of its juice it gets weaker and weaker because these contain the nutrients that nourish them causing the discoloration. After they feed, whiteflies also secrete a sugar-based substance called honeydew.

This by-product provides the perfect environment for black fungi to grow adding to the nutrient restriction on the plant. Aside from that, a whitefly can also be a carrier of plant viruses which can infect your entire garden leading to widespread damage.

If their population is limited, the damage won’t be as extreme. Unless adult whiteflies bring with them plant-damaging pathogens their feeding habits won’t cause as big a damage as a virus infection. Your garden will only start losing plants if their population is large enough to kill off a whole plant.

Practicing Whitefly Control Methods

A location that has a significant whitefly population needs to apply a pest control practices for the treatment of a whitefly outbreak to avoid the destruction of the plant population in that area. There are many ways to do this and here are some of them:

Physical Methods

It is best to start controlling these flies during spring time when the temperature is not as high because their population is still rather small. This will prevent them from growing their population to unmanageable numbers.

You can start by using your house vacuum if it’s mobile and has a long hose and nozzle to suck in the adult whiteflies you see in your garden. This will trap them in a bag or container until such time they die or you’re able to dispose of them properly.

Some even try a reverse method where you use a compressor or a hose that emits high-pressure air and spray it on plants. This will remove the whitefly eggs, larvae and adults from latching on to the plant. You have to do it continuously though, for about three days, to keep them off longer.

Yellow traps have also been a popular control method used by a lot of people experiencing the same pest problem. These types of traps have a sticky substance that catch the whitefly as it hovers above the plant. If they’re found on the leaf feeding on it, gently tap the leaf causing them to fly up because of the disturbance and they’ll get caught on the trap you’ve set up hanging above it.

Greenhouses that practice whitefly management usually install mosquito nets or floating row covers above their plants to prevent these flies to land on them. Experienced gardeners also remove the old leaves on their plants because this is usually the part of the plant where nymphs and young whiteflies feed on.

Agricultural experts also say to avoid using nitrogen based fertilizers and introduce more magnesium and potassium based supplements to plants if there is a deficiency. The former invites more flies to breed in the area while the latter will prevent them from feeding on the plants because they’re rich with Mg and K.

Natural enemies

A myriad of bug species (ground beetles, mirids, lacewings, etc.), spiders, and birds are the natural predators of the whitefly specie. If you want them to stick around your house you must be able to give them a home to thrive in. This means planting a perennial plant in your area.

Wasps have been sold by pest controllers that use biological control methods because these insects attract all types of whiteflies. With their nymph, a wasp either feeds on it directly or kills it by planting a parasite in their bodies like their eggs. However, this method is better suited for closed door areas like glasshouses because these wasps may wander around and find other spots if they live in an open area.

Chemicals and other insecticides

These insects have been found to be a resilient bunch because some species have not only found a way to adapt to the insecticide but now they’ve developed a defense mechanism that allows them to breed better when exposed to the supposed to be harmful substances.

Pyrethum, Natrasoap, and Eco-oil are just some of the examples of chemicals that still work on these insects. Spraying these chemicals must be done religiously to control their population. Target the underside of plant leaves for direct contact.

Using natural, biological, and chemical-based control methods together to solve your whitefly problems will ensure you have the necessary tools to kill it. If you apply a pest control plan along with that then the process becomes much more effective.