If you recently noticed tiny white bugs on your plants, you may be on the brink of infestation, so you’ll need to learn how to get rid of whiteflies on plants fast.
They can harm your garden or indoor grow by feeding on your plants, doing extensive damage in the process. But, not to worry.
We will help teach you everything you need to know about this pest, including how to identify, prevent, and if necessary, kill whiteflies.
Let’s start with some background information.
What Are Whiteflies?
Whiteflies are incredibly tiny, making them easy to miss in the garden. They are often as small as 1/12”.
Found just about everywhere in the country, these pests camouflage themselves as they feed voraciously on your plants.
Generally, you’ll notice large clusters of these pests before you notice the bugs themselves. They hang out on the undersides of leaves and are most active during the daytime.
Because they can overwinter and reproduce throughout the entire year in warm climates, just a few whiteflies can quickly turn into a major infestation.
Whiteflies feed indiscriminately, tending to prefer warm-weather vegetable plants and ornamentals.
Some of their favorites are tomatoes, peppers, okra, and eggplant - but they will also feed on sweet potatoes and various plants in the cabbage family.
Whiteflies can do some pretty extensive damage to your plants - and if that isn’t enough, they can also attract ants, who will wreak even more havoc.
If they are so small, how do you identify whiteflies? Here are some telltale signs of an outbreak.
Signs Of A Whitefly Infestation
Because these guys are so small, you won’t notice a few whiteflies here and there.
The most obvious sign of a whitefly infestation is the appearance of a large cluster of whiteflies on the undersides of leaves. This is their favorite place to congregate because it grants protection from the sun.
When clustered together, these bugs look almost like tiny grains of rice. You might also find their eggs, which look like small ovals with no eggs.
They will also leave a sticky residue, known as honeydew, behind on the leaves.
While that may not seem like a major issue in and of itself, honeydew can cause fungal disease to develop on leaves. It can also attract ants and other bugs, as this sweet substance is many pests favorite snack.
If you find honeydew on your plants, that’s a sure sign that whiteflies are around. You might also see the ants as they flock to the plants in droves.
Your plants may develop leaves that are wilted, yellowed, or pale. Their growth can also be seriously stunted.
How To Prevent Whiteflies In The First Place
We always say you should focus on prevention from the start, and you will never have to worry about killing whiteflies.
Here are some best practices for keeping your garden or grow room clean and pest-free.
Mulch Early and Often
Mulching has a ton of benefits for gardeners. Not only does it help maintain soil moisture, but it also suppresses weeds.
Best yet, mulching can prevent whiteflies. For best results, use aluminum reflective mulch around your peppers, tomatoes, and other vulnerable plants.
This mulch will confuse the whiteflies and make it difficult for them to find the plants
Practice Good Crop Rotation
Whiteflies can overwinter, particularly if you live in a warm climate. Therefore, it’s important that you switch up your garden crop rotation each year to prevent these pests from wreaking havoc multiple seasons in a row.
Do not grow similar crops in the same spot each year. Instead, move them to a new location. That way, if whiteflies have overwintered, they’ll be less likely to find instant food as soon as they emerge.
Add Beneficial Bugs
Beneficial bugs are one of the best ways to prevent or even wipe out an infestation without any chemical intervention. There are certain species of insects that won’t harm your plants, but will voraciously feed on particular pests.
Keep a few natural whitefly predators around, and you’re less likely to have to worry about these pests.
The best beneficial insects for whitefly control are:
- Green Lacewings
- Delphastus catalinae
Even hummingbirds are natural predators. You can find these beneficial insects online. Or, you can create an environment that will attract these creatures.
Even if you follow these tactics, you still might end up with an infestation. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do, particularly if you grow outdoors. So, we're going to teach you how to get rid of whiteflies on plants fast.
How To Get Rid Of Whiteflies On Plants
If you are reading this because you already have an infestation, and need to learn how to get rid of whiteflies on plants quickly, then prevention won’t help at this point.
Luckily, we can teach you how to kill whiteflies fast, naturally and with safe chemical interventions.
We’ll start with the least invasive methods, and work our way towards pesticides as a last resort or for serious infestations.
Directly Spray Whiteflies With Water
Although there are all kinds of pesticides you can spray to get rid of whiteflies, plain water works great too. It’s free, everyone has access to it, and is chemical-free.
First thing in the morning, check the back of each leaf for eggs or clusters. Once you locate them, spray them gently with your hose or use a sprayer.
This will get rid of the pests quickly, even if only temporarily. Use cold water, as this will shock the insects and spur them into movement (plus, water that’s too warm can cause your plants to wilt even more).
You want to spray just enough to rinse the bugs off, but not so hard that you damage foliage.
Its crucial you do this first thing in the morning so the sun can dry your plants off. Wet foliage at night can result in mold, mildew, wilting, and other issues.
Make a DIY Pesticide Spray
You have a couple of options when it comes to pesticide sprays for whiteflies. You can make your own mixture out of a combination of dish soap, lemon, and water.
You'll only need about one squirt of soap per gallon of water. You can also use a store-bought insecticidal spray - but make sure it’s one made out of natural, organic ingredients (more on this later).
Regardless of the option you select, it is important that you spray your plants first thing in the morning.
This will allow the mixture plenty of time to dry before the day cools off and night falls. You won't have to worry about fungal problems developing as a result.
Use Yellow Sticky Traps
Yellow sticky traps may not be super effective at getting rid of whiteflies in the longterm - plus, you’ll have to check them constantly - but they can get rid of a few here or there.
They are best used as an indicator of how severe your infestation has become.
We also recommend keeping these hung around your plants as a preventative measure. If you trap these guys early enough, they won’t ever infest your garden!
Vacuum Up The Pests
If you have lots of whiteflies around, it might be more efficient for you to simply vacuum these pests up.
You’ll need to bring a handheld vacuum out to the garden with you and empty it as soon as you are done to prevent reintroducing the pests (or bringing them into your home).
Try Neem Oil
If you have a more serious infestation, or these methods above don’t prove as fruitful as you had hoped, you may want to try neem oil.
Neem oil is a natural insecticide that is safe for use on all kinds of vegetables, fruit plants and trees, and ornamental plants. It will kill whiteflies at all stages, including larvae, eggs, and adults.
Neem oil is derived from the neem tree, and is completely natural and organic. If you are hesitant, you can even use an OMRI listed neem oil product.
Get Rid Of Whiteflies On Plants With A Pesticide
As a last ditch effort to take down the whitefly population in your garden or grow room, you may need to grab a pesticide.
Don't just grab any chemical you see, though. There are certain insecticides which really won't help much with whiteflies at all.
Instead, look for products which contain pyrethrin or Beauveria bassiana. Here are some of our top recommendations:
- Safer Brand 3 in 1 Garden Spray Concentrate
- Fox Farm "Don't Bug Me" Pyrethrin Spray
- Flying Skulls Nuke Em Concentrate
These are just a few great products you can use, but we have plenty of others to choose from. Our review of the best pesticides is a must read for any hobby or commercial grower.
Control Whiteflies with A Mixture of Vigilance and Patience
While a whitefly infestation can be incredibly frustrating, knowing how to prevent, or worst case, get rid of whiteflies with the right techniques and due diligence will give you the best chance of restoring balance to your garden or grow room.
Now that you know how to get rid of whiteflies on plants fast, you can follow these tips, and banish your whitefly infestation and grow healthy, happy plants - no matter where you live.
If you want to learn more about common grow room pests and diseases, check out our complete guide.
Still not sure how to get started in your battle against whiteflies? Reach out to our experts at 888-815-9763 or by email here. We will help you weigh your options and recommend the right products to get your grow back under control.