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Garden Pest Profile: Whiteflies

Closely related to aphids, whiteflies are—you guessed it—small white flies that congregate on plants in the garden. They might seem harmless at first, flying away sporadically as foliage is disturbed by the wind. But in reality, these little white pests are anything but.

About Whiteflies

Whiteflies love warmer weather, so if you’ve got a lush garden in Australia, chances are you’ve encountered some over the past few months. Commonly found on the underside of leaves where it’s cool, damp, and safe, a small infestation can quickly become problematic.

These white-winged devils live by feeding on the sap of plants. While they feed, they inject chemicals into a plant’s system to slow growth and weaken the plant overall (how rude).

Most sappy plants in your garden are susceptible to whitefly infestations. However, the most vulnerable are kale, cabbage, tomato and citrus plants. Keep an eye out for yellowing leaves, sticky sap on the ground or on foliage, and (of course), small white flies on the backside of leaves.

How to Discourage Whiteflies

Because whiteflies love dark, damp conditions, avoid overcrowding your plants. Cut away any overgrown foliage and position your plants to encourage airflow between stems and leaves. Also water your greenery in the morning to keep the humidity to a minimum (no soil staying damp overnight). Consider also introducing natural predators to the mix. Ladybird, parasitic wasp, and lacewing eggs can be bought online and introduced into your garden to keep the nasties (like whiteflies) at bay.

How to Control Whiteflies

So, you’ve got a whitefly infestation, oops! Never fear, there are a few easy ways to control the little sap suckers.

First, shake your plants until the whiteflies disperse. Use your vacuum (yes, really), to suck them out of the air. Continue over a few days as necessary.

If that doesn’t do the trick, pyrethrum spray from your local hardware store can be very effective. You may need to perform multiple treatments, though!

If you still have a whitefly problem, cut off all the affected leaves and dispose of them. If the problem still persists, sadly, it might be time to throw away the entire plant to avoid infecting others. Regardless, never let whiteflies congregate on your plants undisturbed. The damage may not be clear to begin with, but they multiply extremely quickly, and can kill your plants in a very short amount of time—yikes!

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