How to get rid of whiteflies – four top tips for a pest-free garden

This Morning: Alice Beer shares tips for removing pests

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Whiteflies can cause havoc to your plants due to the sugary excrement they leave behind. As well as this, they can spread plant viruses as they move from plant to plant. Therefore it is advisable to tackle whiteflies effectively and eliminate them from your garden, home and greenhouse as soon as possible.

The Glasshouse whitefly is a common sap-feeding insect which predominantly lives on greenhouse plants and house plants.

These insects reduce the vigour of plants due to their dangerous excretion.

This excretion is a sticky, sugary substance called honeydew, which impacts leaves, stems and fruits of host plants negatively.

These creatures thrive in warm conditions which is why they are not an issue for outdoor plants but can impact the growth of houseplants and greenhouses all year round.

How to get rid of whiteflies

The first step to getting rid of whiteflies is identifying their presence.

These are small winged insects which fly up in clouds of tiny bugs from affected plants when disturbed.

These insects set up home and live out their lives on the underside of leaves.

Three generations of whitefly can live under the same lead and feed on the plant’s sap until they weaken the plant.

Whiteflies are fond of many different plants, including azaleas, rhododendrons, honeysuckle and vegetables such as cabbages.

Predominantly, however, they prefer indoor plants and will be less picky when it comes to the species of plants when they are located indoors or in greenhouses.

Whitefly damage is often difficult to identify on plants, but the white cloud rising from the underside of the leaves is the easiest way to tell they are present.

Over time the honeydew whiteflies leave behind will make the leaves sticky and lead to a black sooty mould developing.

This mould will be unsightly and will gradually starve leaves of necessary light to photosynthesise.

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For whitefly populations outdoors, you should spray fruit and vegetables with contact insecticide.

You should spray this product thoroughly because it must touch the pest in question to prove effective.

Several repeat treatments on a weekly basis may be required to get rid of the whiteflies once and for all.

You should also make sure to spray the insecticide on the underside of plants the insect likes such as azaleas.

Greenhouses and indoors

To control the population of whiteflies in your greenhouse, you can use yellow sticky traps.

Insects are attracted to the traps due to the yellow colour and they are then caught in the glue.

You can also use a biological control to eliminate whiteflies such as introducing a tiny wasp into your greenhouse.

Wasps lay their eggs in the scale stage of the whitefly which eliminates them.

You should also try to use contact insecticide on the underside of plant leaves where you suspect they are inhabiting.

Tips to deter whiteflies

  • The stronger your plant the less likely it will be infected so it is best to feed your plant fertiliser in the spring to build its strength.
  • You can also confuse whiteflies by growing strong-smelling plants near plants they like to bamboozle their senses.
  • If all else fails, you can use a vacuum cleaner to remove the bugs from the underside of your plants every day – but make sure to empty your vacuum into the outside bin to ensure they remain out of your home.
  • If you mulch earlier in the season, especially using an aluminium reflective mulch, you can make it more challenging for whiteflies to find preferred plant hosts.

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