Featured image by: Rob’t, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/52979960

Whiteflies are sneaky little pests that hide in your plant and often go unnoticed until they’ve accrued large numbers.

Today we’ll discuss more about these tiny pests and how to get rid of them!

Table of Contents

What are Whiteflies?
How to Identify Your Plant might have Whiteflies?
How to Get Rid of Whiteflies?
How to Prevent Whiteflies?

What are whiteflies?

Photo by: Central Science Laboratory, Harpenden, https://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=0177095

Whiteflies are tiny, flying insects that love to reproduce and live on the undersides of leaves.

Despite their name, they are not flies (who are in the order Diptera). They are in the same order (Homoptera) as mealybugs, aphids, and scale. This is helpful to know as trying to control whiteflies is similar to their pesty cousins.

Whiteflies suck the sap out of leaves and, like their relatives, leave behind a sticky substance called honeydew.

This honeydew can attract black sooty mold and ants to the plant.

Black Sooty Mold, Photo by: Joseph O’Brien, https://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=1427014

Whiteflies lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. These eggs are oblong in shape and are often a shade of white or pale yellow. The eggs will hatch to reveal nymphs called crawlers.

The crawlers are so tiny they are hard to identify, even with a magnifying glass. Nymphs eventually stop moving and remain in a single location until they molt into their winged adult stage.

Whiteflies live for about 2 months.

Whitefly Nymphs, Photo by: John A. Weidhass, https://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=1626051

How to Identify that Your Plant Might have Whiteflies?

Whiteflies, Photo by: Whitney Cranshaw, https://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5560974
  • Tiny white insects are on the undersides of leaves
  • In larger numbers, you will see whiteflies fly off the plant when disturbed
  • Sticky residue (the honeydew from whiteflies feeding)
  • Black mold (grows on honeydew)
  • Plant’s leaves that begin to wilt or turn yellow
  • Plant has stunted growth
  • Plant has premature leaf loss
  • Plant has distorted or discolored new growth
  • Plant has leaves that appear to be turning silver

Important note: most of these signs can also be an indicator of other pests as well

How to Get Rid of Whiteflies?

Photo by: David Riley, https://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=2511014
  • Yellow sticky traps that you place in or near your plant. Click to see one example of the yellow sticky traps available from Amazon.
  • Beneficial Insects
    Beneficial insects have become my #1 solution for pests. Why? Because they are an all-natural, effective way of controlling pests that require nothing from me besides their release. I still look at my plants occasionally to ensure that I don’t miss any major growing infestations, but my mind is much more at ease knowing that I have someone on the job when I’m not looking.

    My preferred beneficial insects are ladybugs because they eat such a wide range of pests and have been hardier than green lacewings in my experience.

    In addition to whiteflies, ladybugs eat aphids, mealybugs, scale, and spider mites. Green lacewings also eat all of these guys as well.

    Assassin bugs and parasitic wasps are other beneficial insects that are effective with whitefly, but I haven’t personally used them yet.
  • Insecticidal Sprays
    Insecticidal sprays, both homemade and purchased, can work to control whitefly populations. However, the plant really needs to be coated in it (particularly the backsides of the leaves) and may need to be sprayed again to do an effective job at reducing and eliminating the population.

    One homemade insecticidal soap recipe I read about for whiteflies is 1 gallon of water, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 2 teaspoons of dish detergent, and 2 teaspoons of white vinegar. I am going to try this the next time I deal with whiteflies.

    You can also use the homemade insecticides that I’ve mentioned in other pest management posts:
    Neem Oil and Soap spray: 17 ounces water, .5 tsp neem oil, and .75 tsp mild dish soap
    Rubbing Alcohol and Soap spray: 4 ounces rubbing alcohol, 1.5 tsp mild dish soap, and 16 ounces water

How to Prevent Whiteflies?

  • Regularly inspect plants
  • Give them a bath in the shower or sink – rinsing the undersides of the leaves as well to spray off looming pests
  • Consider periodic treatment even if you don’t have an infestation, like beneficial insects or insecticidal sprays
  • Observe your plants regularly so if they begin to change in unexpected ways you can look more closely to see if a pest might be causing your plant to decline

Resources used:

Click to read last week’s article: How to Grow a Miracle Berry Tree Indoors

Want to learn more about houseplant care? Check out these posts:

Lighting: How to Choose the Perfect Houseplant for the Lighting in Your Home!
Bright Indirect Light: Houseplant Care: What is Bright Indirect Light?
Watering: How to Water Your Houseplants Correctly Every Time
Passive Hydro: How to Propagate Houseplants Using Passive Hydro
Potting Mix: What Potting Mix Will Help Your Houseplant Grow and Thrive
Choosing a Pot: Pick the Right Pot For Your Houseplant
Exposing My Mistakes! Sharing My Biggest Houseplant Mistakes So You Can Avoid Them!
Propagation: How to Propagate a Hoya Lisa Cutting in Water
Fertilizer 101: Answers to the Most Common Questions About Fertilizer

What’s wrong with your houseplant? Here’s some posts that can help!

Fungus Gnats: How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats for Good in 3 Easy Steps
Mealybugs: How to Detect and Get Rid of Mealybugs on Houseplants
Scale: How to Identify and Get Rid of Scale on Houseplants
Aphids: How to Eradicate Aphids from Houseplants
Spider Mites: How to Identify and Control Spider Mites
Root Rot: A Simple Guide to Root Rot: How to Identify, Control, and Prevent It.
How NOT to Kill Your Houseplants:
4 Simple Changes I Made to Stop Killing My Houseplants
Does Your Plant Need More Light?: 6 Ways Your Plant is Telling You It Needs More Light
How to Know When to Water: Better Ways to Know that Your Houseplant Needs to Be Watered
Whiteflies: How to Identify and Get Rid of Whiteflies
Leafminers: Coming Soon!
Root Mealybug: Coming Soon!
Fungal Disease: Coming Soon!
Bacterial Disease: Coming Soon!

Want to join me in nerding out on some specific plant species or genera? Check these posts out:

Hoya: For People Who Are Obsessed With Hoyas
Alocasia: Spotlighting Alocasia: Everything you want to know!
Oxalis: Digging into the Weedy, Wonderful World of Oxalis, or False Shamrock Plants
Agave: Why Agave is an Amazing Houseplant AND How to Care For It!
Scindapsus: For people who want to know more about Scindapsus
Schlumbergera: How to Care for a Holiday Cactus
Cacti: 4 Reasons Cacti are Fascinating, Easy Houseplants
Euphorbia: Euphorbia Plants are not Cacti – So What are They?
Epipremnum Aureum: How to Care for Pothos, the Nearly Perfect Houseplant
Moon Cactus: Why is Your Moon Cactus Dying and Can It Be Saved?

Want to learn about botany for plant lovers? These posts are for you!

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Botanical Latin 101: For People Who Want to Understand Botanical Latin
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What is Tissue Culture?: Are Tissue-Cultured Houseplants of Poor Quality?

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