Whitefly: how to get rid of it

Along with the red spider and the mealybug, the whitefly is one of the most common pests today in both gardening and horticulture. This small insect, which seems to cling tightly to some plantations or crops, is the terror of many farmers when the time of heat and humidity arrives. If we are careless and this pest appears or if once we detect it we do not fight it, it easily ruins crops and gardens.

If you want to learn how to eliminate whitefly and prevent it, join us in this article where you will find a practical guide with tips and remedies for it.

How to identify the fly – characteristics and symptoms on plants

The whitefly , which is part of the family of aleurodid insects (Aleyrodidae) , is about 2 mm in size or less, it is very harmful to plants. It tends to be placed on the underside of the leaves, where it takes advantage of their greater porosity to absorb the sugars and nutrients from the plant. It is a very well adapted pest, in fact it is one of the most common pests in plants , and most of its species have the capacity to feed on a wide range of plants, hence sometimes they become so difficult to combat.

The greatest danger of this pest is not the weakness they cause to the plant (although in very serious cases it is enough to endanger it) but the honeydew they secrete, which attracts ants and can cause the appearance of a large number of diseases, such as fungi.

If you suspect a whitefly infestation may be on your plants , check the underside of the leaves for them. A very simple and quick method to locate them is to lightly shake the leaves of the plant: if the whiteflies are on them, they will fly away immediately.

Whitefly: how to eliminate it - How to identify the fly - characteristics and symptoms in plants

How to eliminate whitefly – remedies

How to fight the whitefly? The truth is that there are insecticides with artificial chemicals that are commercial products that are easy to find, but there are also several ecological methods to combat this pest and not have to expressly resort to an insecticide for whiteflies that is artificial, saving us from contaminating the crop. These are the most effective and popular whitefly remedies :

Potassium soap

As with the spider mite and the mealybug, potassium soap is a great tool in the fight against this pest. Dilute the soap in water and spray the mixture on your affected plants, making sure that it reaches every corner, especially the underside of the leaves. Many of the adult specimens will fly off and the action of the soap will kill any remaining insects, including larvae, allowing us to end the problem if we keep applying it for a few days.

Neem oil

Neem or Nim essential oil is another very effective natural insecticide. This essential oil is applied the same as potassium soap: diluted in water and sprayed on the affected plants. In fact, it is common to apply them together in the same solution to increase their effectiveness.

Apichi insecticide

This natural homemade insecticide is very useful to combat several pests, among which is the whitefly. It is prepared with hot chili or chili peppers, garlic and unground black pepper, as well as 96º alcohol as the base of the mixture. It is a natural remedy widely used in Latin America and it really is very effective. The apichi is applied sprayed, preferably in the late afternoon when the light is no longer on the plant. It is a very powerful product and you have to dilute it a lot.

Fermented ivy extract

Another very useful preparation against the whitefly, the red spider or the aphid is the fermented extract or ivy slurry. It is very easy to prepare and has the advantage of being able to be stored for a long time before losing its properties. To do this, you have to mix 1 kg of chopped ivy stems and leaves with 10 liters of water, stir it for five minutes every day for two weeks, which is the average time necessary for fermentation to take place; do not stop stirring any day because if it remains static and does not oxygenate it rots. Once the ivy slurry is ready, you just have to spray it on the plants to eliminate the whitefly or any other pest, or it is even good to use it from time to time to prevent them.

Other methods against whitefly

For larger or professional crops it is also common to resort to tools such as, for example, the introduction of natural predators, such as Encarsia formosa or ladybugs. Apart from this natural method, the yellow chromatic traps, a color for which the fly feels special attraction, are also very easy to manufacture and useful.

Whitefly: how to eliminate it - How to eliminate whitefly - remedies

How to prevent whitefly

As always, prevention is the best option when faced with the threat of all kinds of pests. In the case of whiteflies, there are some universal measures that can help you keep this insect away from your plants:

  • Water your plants properly and continuously. Continuous watering that doesn’t cause puddles or allow the soil to dry out regularly will help keep your crop clean of pests. To do this, you can try using the drip irrigation system. 
  • Always remove weeds and plant debris from both the soil and the plants themselves. Having the earth full of rotting stems or leaves is synonymous with problems, as it is perfect for pests and diseases, such as fungi, to develop.
  • Avoid monoculture as much as possible, as it is very weak against all kinds of pests and diseases.
  • Ants protect whiteflies, so it’s a good idea to keep their numbers in check or avoid them altogether.
  • Lastly, an abundant population of ladybugs or lacewings is a guarantee that the whitefly population will not soar.

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