Are there small, white flies on the leaves of your plant? And do more appear when you give the plant a little tap? Chances are you're dealing with white fly. If you actually spot white flies, the infestation is already in an advanced stage, but don't panic! Your green friend can still be saved with the right control. Want to know everything about white flies and their control? Read all about whiteflies here.
What is white fly?
As its name suggests, the white fly is a small, white insect with white powdered wings. The half-winged insect belongs to the family of Aleyrodidae. It is not officially a fly but a moth and is closely related to the scale and aphid. The adult white fly is 1.5 millimeters in size and can be easily seen with the eye. The white flies are on the underside of leaves where they feed on plant juices.
The population consists of males and females. The female deposits the eggs mainly on the underside of the leaves. They are usually laid in circular clusters of 30 to 40 eggs. The eggs are white in color and turn black after a day or two. After about seven days, the larva emerges from the egg. During the first stage, the larvae can still move around. The larvae wander around the plant and insert their mouthparts into the leaves to feed on plant sap. In the next stage, they lose their feelers and attach themselves to the underside of the leaves where they continue to feed until they pupate. From the pupa comes an adult white fly that looks like a small, white moth. The adult white fly has four wings that are covered with a white, powdery coating. The full life cycle of a white fly is between 15 and 40 days, depending on temperature. The eggs will develop faster at higher temperatures.
White flies develop especially quickly at warm temperatures and can then reproduce at lightning speed. The larvae are the biggest danger for your plant. They get stuck with their sucking snout in a phloem vessel of a leaf, sucking nutrients from the plant. They suck in more plant sap than they can digest and excrete it. This excretion is called honeydew. It is a sweet, sticky substance that coats the leaf surfaces. Besides not looking very pretty, it is also a perfect growth medium for black, sooty mold. Between the removal of plant sap and the presence of fungi on the honeydew, photosynthesis can also be disrupted.
How do I recognize white flies?
You can recognize white flies super easily. They congregate on the underside of plant leaves and fly up when disturbed: just tap a plant that is suffering from whiteflies.
The adults are usually on the upper parts of the plant and the larvae are lower down on the underside of the leaves. The eggs have a grayish or yellow cone shape and are the size of a pinhead.
The name of the white fly is derived from the mealy, white wax that covers the wings and body of an adult white fly. The adults are small with yellowish bodies and whitish wings. Some species of white fly have distinctive wings.
How do white flies damage my plants?
White flies and their eggs and larvae spread quickly and easily. This can be done through air currents, such as drafts, but also through cross-contamination. Animals and people can also carry them unknowingly in their fur or clothing and take them inside. Adult white flies can also fly in from outside and land on your houseplant!
A white fly infestation can be very damaging to your plant. The direct damage to the plant is caused when the white fly feeds. Sucking the plant sap leaves colored spots on the parts where they have stuck their proboscis in the leaves. Also, during feeding, toxic substances are released and spread through the phloem within the plant. These substances can make the plant sick and eventually cause it to die. Thus, whiteflies cause damage to your plant in several ways.
The plant sap that the larvae suck up from the leaves is rich in sugar. Furthermore, there are not many nutritious substances in it. Therefore, the larvae have to take in extra amounts of sap to get enough nutrients. They excrete these excess sugars in the form of honeydew. A sticky and sweet substance that fungi love! In addition to making the plant sick from mold, it doesn't look very attractive either.
How can I prevent white fly?
Prevention is of course better than cure, but unfortunately we cannot 100% prevent your plant from getting a white fly infestation. However, you can take a few precautions to reduce the risk of these flying insects!
Check, check, check!
The very best way to prevent a (large) infestation is to check your green friends very regularly. White flies breed very quickly and large infestations can develop in no time, making them difficult to control. Therefore, regularly check your plant from top to root and do not forget the underside of the leaves. By checking regularly you can stay well ahead of an infestation.
A well cared for and healthy plant is the best protection against diseases and plagues. Therefore, make sure that your plant is in the right location, gets the right amount of light and water and give it some extra plant food once in a while. To protect your plant against white fly you should also make sure that your plant is not in a draught. White flies blow with the wind and see your green houseplant as the perfect landing strip! If a white fly infestation should occur, the plant will be well cared for and strong enough to survive the attack. Cuttings and young plants often do not have enough strength yet to withstand an attack on their tender roots. If you suspect that you have a white fly infestation, keep a super close eye on it and intervene as soon as possible!
How can I control white flies?
Have you spotted a few white flies in your houseplant? Then it is important to take action as soon as possible. There is, of course, no need to panic. Your green plant will not die overnight because of white flies. However, your plant may be weakened and the risk of diseases and fungi is greater! With young plants and cuttings things can go wrong more quickly: They are not as strong yet and will find it harder to survive an attack by whiteflies. It is therefore very important to act immediately.
Fighting white flies with neem oil
Neem oil is a natural essential oil that works wonders in treating and preventing pests! Because of its smell, it has lasting effects on the plant. This wonder product is included in the PLNTSdoctor Kit. To ensure that the neem oil "sticks" to the leaves of your plant, you mix the neem oil with water and natural detergent. Pour the mixture into a plant sprayer and apply it to the underside of the leaves. Reapply every few days until the white fly is completely gone. Also, be sure to remove the dead insects once the oil has done its job. Stubborn clusters can also be dabbed with a cotton swab containing neem oil.
Neem oil can also be used preventatively to protect your plant from pesky insects, pests and fungi. Just be sure not to place the plant in direct sunlight afterwards. The oil can retain a little heat and can thus burn the leaves of the plant!
Fighting white flies with vinegar
Another way to control whiteflies is with vinegar. Take a plant sprayer and pour a generous splash of vinegar into the bottle. Top up with water and you're done! Spray all the leaves and stems and repeat this step after a few days.
PLNTS hacks against white fly
If you search online for the best way to fight white fly you will come across a huge number of options. It is good to know that there is not one specific method that works for everyone. For some plants one way works better than the other. It's just a matter of trying it out!
Below you will find a number of alternative hacks that will help you recognize and combat whiteflies.
Mourning fly catchers
A superfine means of giving white flies no chance are our 'Mourning Fly Catcher'! These sticky bug strips cause insects to be attracted to the bright color and then stick to it! Cut the strips into several small strips so you can put them in multiple plant pots.
Another method of repelling whiteflies and other pests is garlic spray! The mineral sulfur in garlic is harmful to whiteflies. First, it is toxic and second, it breaks down the protective coating of the insects. Without this coating, they dry out and will die. Garlic also acts as an antifungal agent against such things as sooty mold. To make garlic spray you need a little dish soap, 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper, 4 cloves of garlic and a liter of water. Squeeze the garlic and bring it to a boil along with the cayenne pepper and water. Let it soak overnight in a sealed container. The next day, fill a plant sprayer with the water mixture and add a few drops of dish soap. Spray the mixture on the plant, not forgetting to include the stems and underside of the leaves. Repeat every other day until all the white fly is gone.