These tiny insects are usually about 1/10 to 1/16 inches long and resemble moths. Their body is covered with a white powdery substance. When not flying, they keep their leaves folded 'roof-like' over the body.
There are five distinct stages of development:
1. Eggs laid under leaves and often covered in a powdery material
2. Nearly transparent nymphs that are newly hatched and mobile
3. Intermediate nymph stage with no antennae or legs and immobile
4. Dark nymphal stage, which is somewhat segmented
5. Adults are active fliers
Adult females can lay 150-300 eggs in a lifetime, they leave a honeydew substance all over the plant, and damage generally resembles that of aphids. These bugs suck the juices from the leaves causing wilting, drying up, browning of leaves, stunted growth, and eventual death.
The best way to prevent whiteflies is to check plants before you buy them or bring them home. Shake plants to see if adult flies are present. Also, check the undersides of leaves for egg patterns. Bringing an even slightly infected plant home could risk infestations of all other plants. Remove any leaves from your own plant that are over 50% damaged.
Defeating with Sprays:
Follow the same instructions for getting rid of aphids, except continue for every 5-10 days until infestation is gone.
Also see our Natural Remedy Section
Encarsia formosa, small wasps that attack whiteflies, are the most effective whitefly predator. The only other real alternative is the preying mantis. These wasps feed on the whiteflies and lay their eggs inside its body cavity. These wasps do not sting people.
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