I don’t grow vegetables much, but when I do, I hoard of whiteflies make my balcony and porch their home. After some trial and error, I think my husband and I finally outsmarted the whiteflies. Here are some tips on how to get rid of whiteflies.
I decided to buy a ton of seeds over the summer with some birthday money, and one of those seed packets were for mini pumpkins. I was really excited, since I had never grown mini pumpkins before!
Our Whitefly Control Fails
I didn’t start the seeds until the end of August, which is late, but I wanted to at least see if I could grow the pumpkins in the first place. We had been enjoying the beautiful large leaves and yellow flowers from the plants up until a few weeks ago, when the whiteflies took residence.
My husband and I tried spraying the flies with water, water and liquid soap, and other homemade sprays. The last one we tried nearly killed my mini pumpkins!
What are Whiteflies?
Whiteflies, as their name suggests, are tiny white bugs that infest a variety of plants. The scientific name for whiteflies is aleyrodidae. These pests are cousins to mealybugs and aphids.
These tiny pests can be as small as 1/12 of an inch and are usually found in groups. There are over 1,000 types of these pests found all over the world, making them a very common garden pest.
They are white, have soft bodies and wings, making it easy for them to infest a large plant or several plants growing close together. Despite their white color, whiteflies can be hard to see and usually reside underneath leaves, making them hard to reach.
They are mostly prominent in the middle of summer and near the end of summer. Many plants attract whiteflies, as discussed below.
Plants that Attract Whiteflies
A variety of plants, especially vegetables, seem to attract whiteflies. Plants that attract whiteflies include:
- various herbs
Most of these plants grow in warmer weather, which is when whiteflies are most prominent. Below are some ideas on treatment for whiteflies.
Treatment for Whiteflies
There are different types of treatment for whiteflies. You can make homemade sprays, buy organic sprays, or synthetic sprays. I won’t say to use one over the other. Experiment a little to find out which treatment works best for you and your plants.
Treatment for whiteflies include the following:
- spraying with water
- homemade sprays
- organic sprays
- vacuuming whiteflies
Spraying with Water
Start by spraying the whiteflies with water from a water bottle spray or hose. This will make the pests go in all sorts of directions, instead of staying in a group. If this is all you do, they will keep coming back and killing your plants.
Whitefly Control with Homemade Sprays
If you want to save money and know exactly what is going on your plants, try making a homemade spray with just a few ingredients. Make sure you have an empty spray bottle handy. If not, there are plenty spray bottles to choose from.
One homemade whitefly spray is mixing a gallon of water with a squirt of dish soap. We tried this on our mini pumpkins but the solution just slowed down the flies. You want to do this every few days to get rid of adult and young whiteflies.
Another homemade spray you can try is mixing two parts rubbing alcohol with five parts of water, as well as adding a squirt of liquid dish soap. Spray the affected leaves on your plants to get rid of the whiteflies.
An alternative to sprays is vacuuming the whiteflies every few days. You can get rid of adult and young whiteflies this way. Get rid of the vacuum bag as soon as possible to prevent the whiteflies from infesting your plants again.
Neem oil is a natural alternative to insecticidal soap and insecticides. Spray the neem oil on your plants every few days until all the whiteflies are gone.
Insecticidal soap can be sprayed all over the leaves of your plants. Spray underneath the leaves where the eggs are placed to make sure you get all the whiteflies taking residence on your plants. Avoid spraying your plants in the heat, since this can hurt the plants.
Use insecticides sparingly, since whiteflies are known to build up a resistant against these types of sprays. If all else fails, use an insecticide that will kill whiteflies.
Once you get rid of all those whiteflies, don’t celebrate just yet. You want to use some measures to prevent an infestation from happening again. There are several ways to do this.
Remove Dead Leaves and Branches
One way to prevent whiteflies is to remove diseased and dead leaves and branches. You can do this by using garden clippers.
I used this method when trying to get rid of aphids on one of my hibiscus plants. It was a pain since I removed most of the leaves, but this method did help prevent the aphids from coming back!
Another way to prevent whiteflies from coming back is to bring in natural enemies of whiteflies. Ladybugs, lacewings, and wasps are a few natural enemies of these garden pests.
Making a trap can catch and prevent whiteflies from attacking your plants. Buy a sticky yellow pad and place several in your garden. The whiteflies are naturally attracted to the color yellow, since it reminds them of mature plants.
The flies will stick to the pad and eventually die, then all you need to do is throw away the yellow pads!
Another way to prevent whiteflies, which is more time consuming, is to grow companion plants. Nasturtiums and Mexican and French Marigolds make great companion plants for vegetables.
Ask a rep at a local garden center what is best to grow in your area. You can always check your growing zone too, if you aren’t sure which companion plants grow best in your area of the country.
How to Get Rid of Whiteflies
Whatever method or methods you use to get rid of whiteflies, don’t just do it once and call it a day. You need to repeat until all the pests are gone.
Do you have a success story on how to get rid of whiteflies? Let me know in the comments section below!