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Aleurodide is the scientific name used to distinguish small white insects that often fly over your plants, and which are equally often called "white flies".
Winged, soft-bodied insects, closely related to aphids and scale insects, can be found in most territories but… they are so small that they are usually camouflaged and hardly detected with the naked eye.
When enlarged, they appear triangular in shape, and are often found in clusters on the underside of leaves. They are active during the day, and therefore are easier to spot than other nocturnal parasites. Whiteflies are able to overwinter and reproduce all year round in warmer climates.
A common species of whitefly is the white fly with silver leaf, which is slightly smaller and more yellow than other whiteflies. This type, like the others, tends to suck ornamental plants and vegetable plants in hot climates, including tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and okra, but also sweet potatoes and plants of the cabbage family.
How to identify whiteflies on plants
The white flies, as we just mentioned above, they have a nasty habit of sucking the sap of plants, producing, in turn, a sticky substance known as honeydew. There honeydew, left on plants, can cause the formation of fungal diseases on the leaves.
In short, due to the presence of the whitefly, the plants quickly become extremely weak and may not be able to act with their usual photosynthesis. The leaves wither, turn pale or yellow, and growth is stopped. Honeydew is also the most obvious sign that whiteflies have been feeding on that poor plant for several days and, as if that weren't enough, you could often see ants too, attracted by the honeydew.
Read also: White fly, meaning, insect and remedies
So, in order to identify whiteflies on plants, it may be useful to check the undersides of the leaves around the veins, and check for white insects and, even if not visible, “feel” the leaf surfaces in search of honeydew. If whiteflies are present here, they will suddenly fly off the leaves in a swarm.
In addition to the above, it is also possible to find eggs laid on the underside of the leaves. This is the beginning of a new generation of aleurodide, which obviously deserves to be dealt with promptly. When the eggs hatch, the larvae will have the appearance of small white ovals without legs; they won't move yet but… they will already be able to start sucking the juice from the plant. And this is why gardeners often don't find whiteflies until it's simply too late.
Keep in mind that adult females can produce up to 400 eggs, which can hatch in a week to a month. They are usually laid in a circular fashion: the pale yellow eggs when laid turn brown when they are about to hatch.
How to prevent whiteflies
For prevent whiteflies there are various solutions and traps that you can use on your plants, without damaging them.
Of course, as should be clear from the insights above, our main advice is to act as soon as possible: in the morning and in the evening, during a walk in the garden, check the back of the leaves for eggs or small insects that They "fly away" as you approach your plants.
The most obvious and decisive remedy is to spray the leaves with insecticide, possibly when the temperatures are cooler, such as late in the day, because the heat can cause an adverse reaction to the plant. Repeat the operation 2 or 3 times.
Also keep in mind that a natural remedy to prevent the presence of whiteflies in your plants is to encourage the arrival of natural predators, which will prevent whiteflies from spreading. Ladybugs, spiders, lace larvae and dragonflies are just a few of the many beneficial insects that can control a whitefly population. Hummingbirds are another natural predator: creating a habitat that will attract dragonflies and other insects of this category, therefore, you will be able to favor a discreet but effective presence in order to prevent or remove the populations of aleurodide.
We also urge you, when it comes to whiteflies, to avoid chemical insecticides; usually these insects are resistant to such products and all you end up doing is killing the beneficial insects - their natural predators - and the insects that pollinate the garden for a better harvest!
Again, try a good mulch at the beginning of the season, with aluminum reflective mulch, especially when it comes to tomatoes and peppers. Reflective mulch makes it difficult for whiteflies to find host plants.
Finally, have yellow tags lined with petroleum jelly to monitor for whiteflies, especially when it comes to tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, or cabbage crops. A half-and-half mixture of petroleum jelly and dish soap, spread across small bright yellow painted boards, is sticky enough to catch even the smallest whiteflies. To the "eyes" of white flies, in fact, the yellow color will appear a mass of new foliage. The insects will therefore be attracted to the paper, but they will get stuck in the jelly and will die in a short time.
We hope these tips can be useful to you to be able to counter this annoying presence!