Whiteflies are insects that can greatly impact agriculture and spread disease, affecting food production all around the world when they feed. While they will affect food, their presence will also have an effect on the larger economy, costing farmers and consumers a lot of money by driving up food prices.
Whiteflies are not known to bite humans, but they do have piercing mouthparts they use to extract fluids from plants. They are very similar to a mosquito.
The whitefly is a species that thrives in warm environments and cannot survive the cold. Females will lay yellow eggs in semicircles on the undersides of plant leaves that turn a darker shade over the course of 24 hours. After 5 to 7 days, nymphs appear and will flatten themselves against the leaves to start feeding. They will spend another week as translucent pupae that look similar to mealy bugs before they develop into full grown adults.
Most females will lay eggs in the late spring, and under the best conditions, they can lay up to 400 eggs over a two-month period, but usually much less. One generation of whiteflies will develop over three to four weeks.
These flies love plants, both indoors and outside. They will feed on vegetables and flowers, effectively killing them. If they occur in large groups, this is especially dangerous to farmers because their crops will be threatened. They can also affect potted houseplants if they are found inside.
Types of Whiteflies
Ficus whiteflies are between 1.4mm and 1.6mm with white wings and dark red eyes. Their wings have faded gray-brown markings. These pests lay their yellowish eggs on the underside of leaves along the vein in the middle. The early stages of this insect can be seen on both the top and bottom of leaves, which differs from other whitefly species. They primarily damage various species of Ficus plants and Rhododendron.
Rugose Spiraling Whitefly
Rugose spiraling whiteflies, at 2.5mm, are larger than other whitefly species in the United States and move more slowly. These pests have irregular faded brown bands on their wings and males have a pair of pincers at the end of their abdomens. They lay their eggs in a spiral on the underside of leaves, hence the name. The eggs are coated in a waxy, white material.
Whiteflies In The House & The Yard
Whiteflies can’t handle cold weather, so they prefer warmer climates, greenhouses or inside your home. As long as it is warm out you’ll most likely find them underneath leaves out in your yard. Their nymphs attach to the plants and feed off them. They will do the same to your houseplants or any you bring in from outside when the temperatures drop. Whitefly infestations can spread quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you control a whitefly infestation?
Most whiteflies infestations occur from plant materials that started off with eggs in the first place. You’ll want to give your new plants a look-over and separate the affected plants from the clear ones so they will not be disturbed by the flies.
It may also help to trap whiteflies. They love yellow and white lights and will often be found buzzing around them, as well as lightly-colored foliage. To trap them, place colored sticky traps around affected areas such as infested plants.
Biological control is also possible with the introduction of parasitic wasps. The Encarsia Formosa wasp develops within young whiteflies, turning them black and killing them. This is only possible in warmer environments that average 72 degrees.
The parasitic wasp Eretmocerous californicus kill whiteflies through “blood feeding” when young whiteflies are stung by the wasps. Instead of laying eggs, the adult whitefly will feed on the blood from the wound of its young.
Benefits of Professional Whitefly Pest Control
A pest management professional has the education, equipment and skills necessary to effectively address a whitefly problem. Finding and treating the whiteflies can be challenging, especially if they are hidden in the building. A pest management professional provides their expertise to identify the pest problem and determine the best possible solution to resolve the whiteflies infestation.