The Q&A Archives: Aphids and white flies on gardenia

Question: I have white flies on my gardenia plants and black honeydew on the leaves. Are the white flies creating the honeydew or are they eating the aphids? Are the white flies harmful to the plant?

Answer: Whiteflies don't eat aphids; they prefer to feed on plant fluids. Their feeding results in yellowing leaves so getting rid of them will keep your gardenia looking green and healthy. The honeydew is created by sucking insect pests such as aphids, scale insects and mealybugs. Getting rid of these populations will stop the honeydew. Insecticidal soap will work against the aphids on your plants. There are a number of biological controls that you can try to get rid of white flies. Since you're dealing with an outdoor white fly problem, you might want to try releasing lacewings or minute pirate bugs, both available through garden centers. Other control methods include yellow sticky traps - basically cardboard painted bright yellow and coated with mineral oil or petroleum jelly, and suspended near the tops of plants. Insecticidal soaps work well against white flies, too. Just be sure to spray both top and undersides of leaves. Insecticidal soaps can cause burning of leaves if applied during hot weather, so use caution. Good luck in getting rid of those pesky pests!

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