Whiteflies are a common pest found on indoor plants, tomatoes in the garden, and greenhouses. These sap-sucking insects are often found in groups on the undersides of leaves.
Nymphs and adults are both capable of causing damage to plants by sucking the juices from new growth which results in leaf yellowing and fewer crops. Many of the plants also become susceptible to viral diseases due to the honeydew secretion the whitefly leaves behind. Affected plants may include citrus, cucumber, hibiscus, potato, and tomato plants.
The adult whitefly is a 1/16 inch moth-like flyer with powdery wings and a small antenna. Gardeners will easily recognize these insects since they are generally seen hovering near the tops of plants.
Their nymphs are wingless and flat-bodied pests with an oval appearance that can be found feeding on the underside of leaves.
Females deposit 200 to 400 eggs in clusters on the undersides of upper leaves when the weather turns warmer during late spring.
Eggs hatch within 5 to 10 days and nymph crawlers emerge to attach themselves to the underside of a leaf to feed until they are ready to pupae into an adult.
Because chemicals will destroy any predator insects that feast on the whitefly, using a natural method to control these pests is generally best.
Natural predators like the ladybug and lacewing larvae will feed on the eggs when introduced into your garden. The whitefly parasite is also effective and will destroy both nymphs and their pupae.
Look carefully for the nymphs and their cocoon pupae stages on the undersides of leaves, since they can appear translucent to the human eye.
Remove any infestations of the whitefly's larvae by using a power hose designed to spray a blast of water from affected plants in your garden or greenhouse.
Keep a close eye on your indoor plants during the winter months as whiteflies and their larvae can survive indoors if conditions are ideal. If cocoon stages of the larvae are found pick off plants and dispose of them in a sealed container.