how to control whiteflies

Simple ways of Identifying and controling whiteflies

What are whiteflies?

Whiteflies are insects that cause direct damage to plants by sucking plant sap and removing plant nutrients thereby weakening the plant. The adult has two pairs of wings that are held roof-like with a pale yellow body.

They are mostly white but can also be yellowish with some species having dark or moulted wings. They are mostly found clustered in groups on the underside of young leaves and readily fly away when disturbed.

The adult females lay eggs that are white in colour but may turn brown gradually. They hatch after 5-10 days into the crawler (immature stage) at 30degC depending on species and humidity. This explains the high population in the greenhouse than outdoors.

The crawler is mobile, and it moves to a suitable feeding location where it moults loosening the legs and antennae. It later passes to the nymph stage. Nymphs are usually oval or oval elongated in shape and are simple in appearance like small-scale insects. Nymphs later mature into adults.

Even though whiteflies adults don’t fly very efficiently, they can be transported by the wind for long-distance once airborne. This explains why it seems hard to control whiteflies on outdoor farms. 

Host crops

Tomato, cabbage/kale, brassicas, cassava, citrus plants, cotton, cucumber, eggplant, green gram, mango, sweet potatoes, melons, peppers and pumpkin

Read also how to control; Tuta absoluta in your tomatoes farm

Damage caused

Whiteflies produce a large quantity of honeydew that leads to the growth of sooty mould on the lower leaves, blocking or reducing the photosynthetic capacity of the plants.

The honeydew also contaminates the marketable part of the plant, reducing its market value or making it outright unsaleable. Infected plants may wilt, turn yellow in colour, become stunted or die when whitefly infestation is severe or of long duration. Whitefly is a vector of tomato yellow leaf curl virus, a critical virus disease in tomato farming. 

How to identify whiteflies
How to Identify and control whiteflies in tomatoes farming
whiteflies in a tomatoes leaf

Whiteflies are recognised by a cloud of tiny whiteflies flying up when the plants are shaken and resettle soon on the plants. They affect plants at the seedling stage, vegetative growing and flowering stage

Read also how to farm tomatoes for high yields

Pest management
  • Ensure adequate growing conditions for the crop such as good soils, adequate water supply, proper feeding (avoid applying high doses of nitrogen fertilizers, since it favours the development of the pest), proper spacing and good nursery management to start the crops with healthy, vigorous plants.
  • For early detection, inspect for adults and eggs at the seedling stage found on young leaves. Watch out also for whiteflies flying up when the crop is disturbed.
  • Yellow sticky traps cab used to monitor the presence of whiteflies for the timing of interventions.
  • Intercropping tomatoes with capsicum or cucumber has reduced whiteflies numbers compared to tomatoes alone or tomatoes planted with eggplant alone. Planting border rows with coriander and fenugreek will serve as windbreaks and are also repellent to whiteflies.
  • Plant tomatoes resistant to tomato yellow leaf curl virus TYLC to reduce the effect caused by whiteflies.
  • Spraying thunder or belt or Oberon speed once per week in a nursery and in the first month of transplanting and later once after every two weeks will help destroy the crawlers, nymphs and adult whiteflies. If the whiteflies population is high spraying the above insecticides twice a week in double concentration can help.
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Reference: Infornet biovision. 

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