Whiteflies are small Hemipterans that typically feed on the underside of plant leaves. In the summertime they can turn your privet and gardenias black and become a giant white cloud of irritating insects when you brush up against an infested plant. Whiteflies feed by tapping into the phloem of plants, introducing toxic saliva and decreasing the plants’ overall turgor pressure. Sounds awful right? It is. Since whiteflies congregate in large numbers, susceptible plants can be quickly overwhelmed. Further harm can be done by sooty mold growth encouraged by the honeydew it creates. Finally, they can transmit diseases from plant to plant. Ugh.
Might be a strong word. Because of their prodigious reproductive capability, whiteflies rapidly develop resistance to chemical pesticides. The USDA recommends “an integrated program that focuses on prevention and relies on cultural and biological control methods when possible”. While an initial pesticide application may be necessary to control heavy infestations, repeated applications may lead to strains of whiteflies that are resistant to pesticides. Care should be taken to ensure that the insecticide used will have a minimal impact on the natural predators of whiteflies. Beneficial releases of green lacewing larvae can also help keep populations below threshold levels once control is established.
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