Whiteflies feed on house plants by tapping into the stems and leaves and sucking out the liquid nutrient or sap. During this process their toxic saliva reduces liquid pressure in the plant. When whiteflies occur in large numbers the plant is overwhelmed. Management is very difficult.
Whiteflies are small plant feeding insects that are not often detected until they become abundant and the plant shows signs of distress. They are found most frequently on the underside of leaves but also occur on stems. Their tiny body is covered with a white wax. Adults have yellowish bodies and white wings.
Whitefiles lay their oblong eggs on the surface of the plant, normally the underside of leaves. The immature stage is mobile at first but soon changes shape and is oval and flattened as it attaches to feed on the plant sap. In warm weather whiteflies develop rapidly and large outbreaks can occur.
Washing the plant is very helpful in controlling whiteflies. Outdoor plants get an occassional hard rain that washes off many of the whitefly adults. Indoor plants seldom get a good rinse and they become heavily infested as a consequence. The use of a mild soap with water will improve results especially if the underside of leaves are treated.
Remove sections of the plant that are most heavily infested. You can also try a hand held vacuum cleaner but be sure to dispose of the contents immediately. Yellow sticky traps can be used to monitor population levels.
Whiteflies may be resistant to pesticides and aggressive chemical treatment can be costly and ineffective.
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