How to deal with whitefly infestation
Whiteflies are garden and greenhouse pests found worldwide. They are tiny insects, in the order Hemiptera (also including aphids, scales, and mealybugs), that feed by sucking juices from plant leaves. There are more than 1500 species of whitefly, which feed on over 500 species of plants, from vegetables to ornamentals.
In many cases, natural predators such as ladybugs, green lacewings, pirate bugs, whitefly predators (that’s the actual name of the insect), whitefly parasites (again, the actual name), big-eyed bugs, dragonflies, damselflies, parasitic wasps, and spiders keep whiteflies under control. However, pesticides, poor weather, and excessive ants can reduce predator populations, allowing whiteflies to proliferate.
Dealing with minor infestation
If you have a minor infestation, you can do a few simple things to get rid of whiteflies and keep them gone. Spray down your plants with a water hose. This will dislodge the adult and juvenile whiteflies as well as their eggs. You can also stop them from spreading by removing any leaves you see whiteflies on. Once you’ve removed the whiteflies, coat your leaves with insecticidal soap, which you can make by mixing a squirt of dishwashing liquid with a gallon of water. Make sure to do this soaping step in the coolest part of the day. Heat can cause plants to react poorly to soapy water.
To keep whiteflies from coming back, mulch with reflective material or place reflective objects in the garden. This will confuse whiteflies and make it difficult for them to identify plants.
For major infestations we recommend using commercial whitefly traps.
A quick breakdown of whitefly traps
Whitefly traps are sticky traps designed to catch a variety of pest insects, including gnats, aphids, and leafminers, among others. Typically, they’re non-toxic, containing only an adhesive and sometimes an odor to attract bugs. They come in a variety of colors, depending on their target. Yellow and blue are the main colors, with white and red also deployed in some cases. Yellow is the most attractive color to whiteflies, which is the reason all the products reviewed above are yellow. Sticky traps are best used around plants, either in the soil, hanging from the plant itself, or spread around the rim of a pot.
Did You Know?
The color yellow is used on sticky traps to attract whiteflies because, to the flies, the bright yellow looks like new leaves.
- What type of users are whitefly traps intended for? These traps are best for people with infestations of pests on their plants.
- How do whitefly traps work? An insect attracted to the color of the paper or an added odor on the paper, flies to it and lands on it, becoming stuck in the adhesive. Eventually, the insect dies. As more and more bugs become trapped on the adhesive, the trap fills up with bugs and the infestation dies down. All sticky traps work the same way, no matter their shape or size or whether they’re staked in the soil, hung from branches or spread around the rim of a pot. Their effectiveness depends in large part on the adhesive used in manufacturing and their placement.
- What other, similar pest control products can whitefly traps replace? Sticky traps are a great replacement for insecticides. Some insect pests, including whiteflies, have developed resistance to many common pesticides, while several of their predators have not. In addition, pesticides can be dangerous for other animals, including household pets and even children. If you’re growing fruits or vegetables, pesticides can also end up in your food.
Whitefly trap buying guide
Choosing the whitefly trap that’s best for you may seem daunting, but it’s really pretty simple. It all depends on the type of infestation you have and where you’re trying to control it.
For severe infestations (e.g., whiteflies all over your plants and flying around in your home, greenhouse, or garden), your best bet is going to be large, double-sided traps. These will catch the most flies because they have greater surface area than smaller, single-sided traps. For smaller groups of whiteflies (e.g., flies on a few of your plants and fairly well confined to a small area), you can use smaller, single-sided traps.
If you’re trying to control whiteflies in your indoor potted plants, you’ll probably want small traps that stick into the soil. Traps that hang from the plant itself are only good for larger, sturdier plants that won’t be weighed down or potentially break. You can also use small cards that you lay down around the rim of the pot. If you have whiteflies in your greenhouse staked traps, hung traps, or traps that you lay down will all work. You’ll probably need larger traps than you would indoors. For garden infestations, you’ll want the largest option, probably double-sided, and we would recommend both staked and hanging traps. Using both types means you can capture pests near the bottoms of your plants and up in the leaves. For both greenhouse and outdoor infestations, water-resistant traps are recommended because you’ll need them to continue working after watering your plants and when it rains. The prices of all the products we reviewed are pretty similar, so it’s going to come down to what you need for your particular pest problem.
Using whitefly traps
Sticky traps won’t solve the infestation problem on their own. They are merely a tool in your arsenal. Many of the techniques mentioned in the introduction will be a necessary accompaniment to sticky traps. To get the most out of your whitefly traps, follow these steps.
First, spray your plants with water or shake/brush them to dislodge whiteflies. You can also use a small vacuum cleaner a few times a week to suck up any stragglers. Once the whiteflies have scattered (or been vacuumed up), coat the leaves with soapy water. Be sure to cover the bottoms as well as the tops of the leaves. Repeat these steps two or three times. For outdoor gardens, cultivate an environment for whitefly predators. For example, a water feature (e.g., a pond) with tall plants will attract dragonflies, one of the whitefly’s (and mosquito’s) natural enemies. Next, put out reflective mulch, which will make it difficult for whiteflies to locate plants. Finally, place your sticky traps. They should keep the whiteflies down by capturing any potential colonists and will help you monitor the success of your treatment.
Keep track of your traps and replace them when they get too full. If you’re not catching whiteflies but you keep seeing them around your plants, try moving the traps to a different location or simply repositioning them.
Take care when installing your whitefly traps as the adhesive can be difficult to get off your fingers. Some companies suggest using vegetable oil to remove adhesive, while some users have had better luck with alcohol.
You can still have staked traps even if you bought some that are just cards. Simply glue the card to a popsicle stick or something similar and you have a staked trap!
Be aware that, with outdoor use, you may catch things you don’t want to catch, like bees, butterflies, lizards, spiders, and even birds. Use your own discretion to determine what level of accidental catch is acceptable to you. Some people discontinue the use of sticky traps after one or two bees become ensnared because bees are so beneficial to gardens. If dragonflies or spiders are getting caught, you’re trading one whitefly control system for another as they are natural whitefly predators. Some users have had success saving lizards by applying olive oil to the lizard’s toes and gently peeling them off the adhesive with toothpicks. This would likely not work for any insects but might work to free trapped birds.
Sticky traps for whiteflies, gnats, and other flying pests are an important tool for indoor and outdoor pest control. They will help you both control and monitor pest infestations that can damage your plants. Safer Brand’s Houseplant Sticky Stakes are effective at catching whiteflies and are better than larger sticky cards for indoor use since they will fit more easily in pots. Their small size also makes them less of an eyesore than larger traps but means that they need to be replaced more often because they can’t hold as many bugs. They are also easier to set up than double-sized traps.
Trapro’s Whitefly Sticky Traps are great for catching whiteflies and provide a larger trapping surface because they are bigger than Safer Brand’s and are double-sided. They are best for outdoor pest control due to their large size and ability to work when wet. They can, however, be cut down to smaller sizes and placed in houseplant pots. They do catch non-target animals, including beneficial insects and even lizards. However, collateral damage is generally low, and lizards can usually be saved.
Seabright Sticky Aphid Whitefly Traps are also good at catching whiteflies and provide a larger surface area than Safer Brand but smaller than Trapro. They are great for both indoor and outdoor use as they can be hung or set directly on top of the soil. Like Trapro’s product, they continue working even when wet. One additional feature of Seabright Traps is the grid that aids in pest population monitoring. Like the other two produces, they do catch non-target animals. However, they offer a nice alternative to the other two in that they fit directly in between them in terms of size and installation.
If you have a whitefly infestation, you’ll likely need to employ some form of sticky trap along with spraying and attracting whitefly predators. The products reviewed above will all perform the same task effectively. The one you choose depends on the severity and location of the infestation. Here, we have tried to provide you with all the information you need to make your decision. Good luck!