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Whitefly: Detailed Note & Impact on Agriculture

October 22, 2018
whitefly on agriculture

Whiteflies are considered to be white colored winged insects that can hamper your plants leaving them in a deformed state and shape also affecting the overall wellness and health of the plant. These flies though tiny can harm your plants and agricultural crops adversely. So keep reading to gain an insight about these tiny monsters and to ways to get rid of them.

What is a Whitefly?

Whitefly is a small insect who mainly feeds on a plant leaf, typically on the underside of it. If you are someone who likes gardening or has an agricultural farm, it can be estimated that you do know about them. They are very bright white in color with patterns made on their four wings and they mainly stay on the underside of a leaf.

The Life Cycle of Whitefly

The lifecycle of a whitefly looks somewhat like this; eggs are being laid by female whiteflies on the upper leaves of a plant but on the underside. The nymph develops inside the egg for the next 12 days after which it is hatched. As soon as they come out, they start feeding on the leaves by biting and sucking the sap of the plants. Depending on the temperature of the place, it takes about six weeks for those nymphs to get developed to a fully grown adult whitefly who lives for about two months.

How Do Whiteflies Look?

what does Whiteflies look like

There are many types of whiteflies that are present so in this article, we will talk about the common ones who can be seen most abundantly.

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➢    Adult whitefly looks like a small moth that has been camouflaged by a waxy and white powder, they are about 3mm in length.

➢    Baby whitefly looks somewhat like a scale hence they are sometimes confused with the scale insects.

➢    The third type of whitefly is known as bandedwinged whitefly who according to their name, have brown bands across their wing with a grey body.

➢    Greenhouse whitefly has flat wings which they hold above their own body.

➢    The next whitefly has wings at a 45-degree angle like a roof, and their body is mainly light yellow in color. This type of whitefly in known as Silverleaf whitefly, and another variant of them, called the Sweet Potato whitefly looks more or less similar to Silverleaf.

Identifying Whiteflies

Identifying Whiteflies

Now that you how different whiteflies look like and where they can be found, you have got a basic idea about their existence. However, it is still and a challenge to identify these tiny insects without knowing the proper ways to do so. Here is what you need to know about whitefly.

➢    If you see your plants tuning pale yellow and brown suddenly, this might be a whitefly attack. They give out a sticky thing called honeydew after sucking all the juices from your plants. In a few days of a whitefly attack, you will not only see the changing color of the leaves but also the growth of the plants will stop.

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➢    Another way to know if whitefly is present in your plants or not is by seeing the activity of ants. If you suddenly see many ants are getting attracted towards the leaves of your plant, you can conclude that whitefly is present there because the honeydew attracts ants towards itself.

➢    Sometimes these whiteflies might not be visible in your eye, so all you need to do is check the underside of the leaves for honeydew by its stickiness. Also if many whiteflies are present at that time under your leaf, then they will fly away for obvious reasons.

➢    Also, check for eggs on the underside of the leaves. The larvae which is hardly visible to naked eyes starts feeding on the plant as soon as it is hatched from the egg, this is the main reason why most of the people notice whitefly after they have turned adult and much damage has been caused.

What are the Damages that Whitefly can Cause?

As mentioned earlier, the nymph, as soon as they hatch from the eggs, starts feeding on the plants. They affect the veins of the plants and suck the sap (the liquid present in the plant) and in return produces the sticky honeydew. This honeydew stays on the plant for a long time and eventually turns black slowly covering the leaves and the stems. This sticky liquid prevents the plant from photosynthesizing which is the reason why they turn pale and dead. The sticky liquid also causes aesthetic damage to the plant.

How to Prevent the Damage?

Prevent the Damage

The damage that whitefly made to the agriculture can be controlled and prevented in a number of ways. Firstly, let us discuss a few tips about how you can control these tiny white insects

➢    The first step that you would need to follow in order to get rid of whiteflies is to check the underside of the plants regularly. If you feel any kind of sticky substance or see them flying away, you would know that they have attacked your plant and it’s time to control them.

➢    Yellow sticky traps are another useful hack that you can use to trap these whiteflies and stop them from creating a mess in your garden. They can trap the whiteflies and suppress the whitefly population growth.

➢    Use a very forceful hose in order to scatter the flies after which you can use insecticidal soaps. This should be done at the latter part of the day when the temperature is cooler. This process should be repeated for 2 or 3 times as per the requirement. Bug Blaster

➢    You can use a mixture of dishwashing liquid and lemon to make the hose water more effective against the whiteflies.

➢    You can also try for a hand vacuum and suck out all the insects including the nymph and the larvae from the underside of the leaves.

Now, we will discuss some effective prevention methods that can be used against the whiteflies.

➢    The first natural way to prevent the whiteflies is by developing a habitat that would be beneficial against them. Like dragonflies and hummingbird. If you build a habitat that would attract hummingbird and dragonflies, then you can be sure that whiteflies would not attack your plants as they would eat them up.

➢    Use the aluminium reflective mulch as soon as possible as these prevent the whiteflies to a greater extent from finding their host plants.

➢    If you think that whiteflies are attacking your plant you can use a bright yellow card coated with a mixture of half portion of petroleum jelly and half portion of detergent. This mixture would not only attract the whiteflies but would also make them stick on it.

Treatment methods for plants

After doing all these above steps, if your plants have still been attacked by these whiteflies then you can use the following treatment measures:

➢    Many companies sell helpful insects who would help you to prevent whiteflies from your plant as they will eat them up. These helpful insects mainly survive in a greenhouse environment.

➢    Encarsia formasia is a small wasp that can prevent whiteflies. These wasps attack the whiteflies by laying eggs on their nymphs which lead them to death.

➢    Botanigard is a common fungus that is used to control whitefly.

➢     This fungus enters the body of the insect and makes them gradually weak and ultimately killing them.

➢    The ants which are attracted because of honeydew would also cause considerable damage to the plants. One way to prevent it is by using Orange Guard which kills ants without causing any harm to others.

➢    Use of insecticides does not benefit much against whiteflies, so an expert opinion should always be taken before you start using any such thing on your plant.

➢    Before you apply any oil or soap to treat the whiteflies, make sure that you read the label and then apply the same. You should always do it when the temperature is cool because hot weather will stand a chance to burn the plants and cause damages to it.

Affected plants

Most common plants that get affected by whiteflies are

➢    Bell Peppers

➢    Tomatoes

➢    Sweet potatoes

➢    Okra

➢    Cabbage

➢    Egg Plants

Some Unknown Whitefly Facts

Unknown Whitefly Facts

Here we will present you some interesting facts about whitefly, check how many of these do you know

➢    About 1500 kinds of whiteflies are there.

➢    They got their name from the color of their body which is due to a wax coating

➢    The whiteflies penetrate to the phloem of the plants, which is the tissue that carries minerals to all plant plants, and then take up all the nutrients making the plant weak.

➢    They carry viral diseases for plants like tomatoes which is known as yellow leaf curl.

➢    The color yellow attracts whiteflies the most.

➢    If you have any reflective surface, then that will prevent the whiteflies from coming there.

➢    Plants like calendula might repel whiteflies.

So, after reading this article, we are sure that you would have pretty much knowledge about whiteflies and the various ways to prevent them. One of the things that you should always keep in mind is that it is better to keep a regular check on the plants because the symptoms of whiteflies appear when they have made maximum damage to the plant. Hence keep a check and be careful and your plants will not get infected by whiteflies. There is a video about tips to control whiteflies.

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