Whiteflies feed on more than five hundred species of host plants. Greenhouse-grown ornamentals such as poinsettia, hibiscus, ivy, gerbera daisy, lantana, verbena, garden chrysanthemum, salvia, and mandevilla are especially susceptible to whitefly damage.
Whiteflies feed on plant phloem by injecting enzymes and removing the sap, reducing the vigor of the plant. Honeydew secretions from whiteflies promote the growth of sooty mold, which significantly reduces plant quality.
The most obvious whitefly feeding damage symptoms are stem blanching, chlorotic spots, leaf yellowing and shedding, and--at high population levels--plant death. In many crops, the damage caused by Bemisia tabaci is indirect, since this species of whitefly is responsible for transmitting many devastating viruses.
Despite their name and appearance, whiteflies are neither moths nor flies, but true bugs more closely related to aphids and scale insects. Whiteflies have hair-like, piercing-sucking mouth-parts that extract nutrients from plant tissue. Whiteflies have long been considered a major pest of ornamental crops, and the problem may get worse. Whiteflies feed exclusively on leaves, nearly always occurring on the under-surface. They suck juices from the plants and also excrete large quantities of honeydew in which sooty mold grows.
Adults are moth-like and covered with white, waxy powder. Adult female whiteflies are about 1/16 of an inch in length. Despite their name and appearance, whiteflies are neither moths nor flies, but true bugs more closely related to aphids and scale insects. Whiteflies have hair-like, piercing-sucking mouth parts that extract nutrients from plant tissue.
In greenhouses, whiteflies feed exclusively on leaves, nearly always occurring on the under-surface.
Compared to other pests of ornamentals, whiteflies have a long life cycle, ranging from two-and-a-half to three weeks under warm conditions to two months under cooler conditions. Adult female can deposit about fifty eggs in cool environments and up to four hundred eggs at higher temperatures. Consequently a whitefly population can reach very high levels in a few generations at higher temperatures. Eggs are inserted on the underside of leaves. Eggs are whitish to light beige but change to a dark blue or purple before hatching. The immature stages resemble miniature scale insects. Eggs hatch in 4 to 12 days into active, six-legged nymphs (crawlers). The crawlers move around for several hours, then insert their mouthparts into the leaves and stay there. After molting three times, they pupate and then become adults. The pupal case remains on the plant tissue even after the adult has emerged. How long it takes for the insects to develop from eggs to adults varies from 4 weeks (summer) to 6 months (winter).
Are whiteflies hazardous to humans?
Whiteflies are not hazardous to humans because they feed on plant leaves.
How can I detect whitefly infestation and how bad it is?
You can monitor whitefly population levels by trapping winged adults on sticky cards and inspecting leaves for the presence of feeding immatures.
To provide information about the presence and movement of whiteflies, strategically place yellow sticky cards throughout the greenhouse, especially near doors and among new plants.
To detect whiteflies on plants, randomly select ten plants per thousand square feet of greenhouse space and--using a 10X hand lens--thoroughly examine the undersides of these plants' leaves for the presence of whitefly adults, nymphs and eggs.
How can I prevent whitefly infestation?
You can reduce your risk by inspecting new plant material in a secure place to prevent whiteflies from escaping. Quarantine all new plant material introduced into your nursery until it has been carefully inspected.
How do I remove whitefly infestation?
Whiteflies can be controlled by Cultural Control, Biological Control and Chemical Control. Call Abell Pest Control to manage your whitefly infestation.
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