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Closer Look Of The WhiteflyThese small, 1/16 inch long insects suck sap from leaves of house plants and most vegetables, usually turning them yellow, causing them to be stunted or to drop prematurely. Somewhat similar to aphids, whiteflys reproduce like crazy and are notorious for quickly developing resistance to insecticides. A sugary substance excreted by the flies (Honeydew) is many times present on leaves, and a black fungus (sooty mold) develops as well, blocking out light and interfering with plant growth. One of the best times to observe them is during August on the underside of leaves. While they can cause your plants to be stunted, the main problem is with the transmission of viruses. More than 1550 species have been found.


Adult WhiteflyAdults are small powdery moth-like insects with four white wings, with a life span of up to two months. You will usually find all stages of development occurring at the same time on the same plant (adults, eggs and larvae). You normally never find just one whitefly but hundreds of them, and if you shake the plants, they fly off infecting others. Whiteflies are not true flys, being related to aphids, leafhoppers and mealybugs. Whiteflies have no hibernation period and cold winters reduce numbers considerably.


Whitefly eggsAdults emerge from a pupae, and within a week begin laying as many as 400 eggs, which are very small and virtually invisible, normally arranged in a circle or semicircle on the leaf undersides. The eggs then hatch into a stage called a crawler (a nymph), which is the only mobile stage except for adults. They ‘crawl’ around the leaf until they find a good spot into which they can insert their piercing and sucking mouthparts, and begin taking sap and juices from the plant, injecting saliva and/or enzymes and sometimes viruses. At temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees F, it takes less than 45 days to develop from egg to adult.

Nymph / Pupa

Whitefly Nymp/PupaWhen crawlers settle down to feed they molt and become nymphs, which are light green, flat oval with short, white, waxy filaments emanating from the border of the body. These waxy filaments eventually becomes the walls of the pupa, from which the adults emerge. There are about four nymphal (instar) stages, the last where the nymphs form a pupa. Once the second stage begins, the nymphs don’t move anymore, but stay stationary on the leaf.

Vegetables That Whitefly Like To Eat

Most vegetables Ornamental plants*

*They have a special affinity for eggplants and poinsettias.


Malathion is the most readily available insecticide for whitefly control, but rotenone and nicotine sulfate may also be used. Sprays containing pyrethrum or neem give the best control for organic growers.

Floating Row CoverWashing plants can sometimes be used to control whiteflies – use a good insecticidal soap solution. Plants should be washed at least weekly and more frequently during periods of heavy infestations. Using floating row covers is also a good trick.

Whiteflys are attracted to the yellow color of sticky traps. Try these if you can. Also, physically removing an infected leaf or using a small hand-held vacuum cleaner to suck them up is also effective.

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