These little pests are common in warm climates, greenhouses, and indoors.  They cannot tolerate cold weather. 

They are tiny, heart-shaped flies.  You will find them on the undersides of leaves and if you brush the leaf or disturb the plat they will fly out in a great big cloud.  Seeing them can be frightening and cause you to wonder what they are and are they harmful.  No, they are not harmful to humans but they are to plants

Life Cycle of the Whitefly

Whiteflies hatch from tiny, cone-shaped eggs, becoming small scale type insects.  They travel along the stems of the plant and soon molt into nymphs.  They will continue to go through more growth stages before they come to the resting stage.  When they come out of this stage, they are now adult whiteflies.  As they go through the different stages of their life, they are feeding on your plant.  

The life cycle takes about 30 days but it can vary.  It depends on the weather because in warmer weather they will reproduce quickly and the reproduction slows down when it becomes colder.

Whiteflies: Causes and Where They Come From

Many things can cause whiteflies.  It can be over or under watering, plant stress, over-pruning, excessive use of fertilizers, and more.  Whiteflies can come from soil transfers, not quarantining new plants, transfer of infested plants, or even into the house through screens.  

Damage They can do to Plants

When they are on your plants they suck the sap from the leaf until it wilts, which is why you see leaves with holes, yellowing or drying leaves on your plants.   The damage starts out slowly but as the adults mate and more nymphs are born, they can increase rapidly.  They can kill a houseplant within a few weeks if you do not get rid of them.  

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whitefly plant

Getting Rid of the Whitefly

The best control for getting rid of whiteflies is defensive because if plants are vigorous and healthy, the less susceptible they are to an infestation.  The types of plants that are more prone to whiteflies infestation are the ones that are stressed, weak, and under-potted.   If you see whiteflies on your plant here are some ways to get rid of them.

1. Vacuuming:  Use the hose attachment to suck up the adult whiteflies but do it gently so you do not damage the plant.  You should use a vacuum with disposable bags so you can just throw them away after vacuuming, The reason is that many times you will also vacuum up newly hatched whiteflies and you do not want them to get out so, with the bagged vacuum, you can just throw it away.

2. Insecticidal Soap:  You can buy this soap or make your own using a dish detergent that is free from additives and perfume-like Ivory Liquid.  You want to make it weak so use a teaspoon per gallon of water.  Put it in a spray bottle and spray the plants.  It will help to control them but it will not wipe them out.

3. Kitchen Insect Spray:  This is a homemade spray that is made from one small onion, one bulb of garlic, and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a blender or food processor until it makes a paste.  Mix it with a quart of water, steep for an hour, and then strain it through cheesecloth.  Add a tablespoon of liquid dish soap and mix it well.  Put it in a spray bottle and spray your plants.  You can keep it in your fridge for up to seven days.

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4. Neem Oil:  This oil is derived from the neem tree and has insecticidal properties plus it has systemic benefits and is also a fungicide.  The systemic benefits mean that a plant can absorb the oil so it can control insects but it does not directly contact.  It is safe to use on food and vegetable plants and ornamentals.  This is mostly used to control the whiteflies but may not eliminate the issue.

5. Vinegar:  If possible, you should use pure vinegar and dilute it with equal parts of water.  Put it in a spray bottle and spray it on the flowers.

6. Sticky Traps:  These are good to help get rid of the adult whiteflies.  These traps are non-toxic so you can use them indoors.  Just hang one from the top branches.  They also make stick sticks that go into the soil of the plant.

You can also take your house plants outdoors and spray it off with a hose.  Once the whiteflies are gone, you can use either soapy water or neem to spread on the leaves to keep the whiteflies off.  Remember when you spray your plants that you spray the undersides of the leaves as that is where they feed.  

How to Stop Whiteflies Permanently

Although you cannot stop them permanently you can control the infestation by doing some simple basic care.  When you use repellents, use them with DIY home remedies simultaneously.  When you first notice them, use the neem oil, soapy sprays, and other natural remedies first.  Prune your plant regularly and remove any leaves that are wilted or have holes in them get rid of them.  You should check your plants regularly to see if you have whiteflies or any other insect pests.

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Conclusion

If you have whiteflies you need to make sure that you get rid of them because if not, they will destroy your plants within weeks.  The whiteflies are more apparent when the weather gets homet, from spring to summer, and more active during the day.  As soon as you notice that you have whiteflies you need to get rid of them so your plants are not destroyed.

The adult whiteflies are more difficult to kill and control.  The adults will just fly around and lay their eggs on other plants.  You have to make sure that you are not only destroying nymphs and the eggs but also the adults.  If not, the infestation will just continue

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