Pests on basil and green pepper plants - Knowledgebase Question

Clearwater, Fl
Question by gldot2000
June 30, 2010
I have a large quantity of small white flies that have infested my basil and pepper plants. I have tried Sevin and spinosad...neither works. Recently, I also noticed small light green bugs under the leaves of both plants as well. First, are these the same pest at different times in their lifecycles? And second, how can I get rid of them in the least toxic way possible.
Thank you for your help!


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Answer from NGA
June 30, 2010

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It sounds like your plants are being attacked by whiteflies, which are about 1/16th of an inch long and fly on powdery white wings; characteristically they will fly away all at once when disturbed. They are sucking insects and lay their eggs on the undersides of the leaves. A light infestation will probably not hurt your plants, but they can multiply rapidly in warm weather and will attack many types of plants so you may wish to try to control them to some extent.

I always start with the simplest method first, and if that isn't successful, move on from there. A strong blast of water from the hose often works. Spray underneath leaves where they hang out. Do this daily if you notice insects.

Whiteflies are attracted to the color yellow. You can purchase or make yellow "sticky" traps from yellow cardboard smeared with petroleum jelly. They fly to it and get stuck.

Soapy water sprays are another possibility. Use 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent soap per gallon of water. Use regular, not concentrated soap. Don't use soaps with lemon, as the citric acid can burn plants. Start with the lower amount and work up as needed. Spray as often as needed. As with any spray you might wish to test it on a few leaves first before you treat all your plants. Spray early in the morning before the sun heats up. Next on my list would be an insecticidal soap spray.

The insecticidal soaps are made from plant-derived fatty acids and target soft-bodied insects. There's really no way you can target the bad guys without fallout on the good guys. If you can regularly monitor and tolerate some damage to your plants, over time Mother Nature strikes a balance, with the beneficials coming in to control the bad guys. Healthy vigorous plants will withstand insect attacks best, and it's really the best thing you can do to prevent insect problems.

As for the small light green bugs, that's something else but without more detail I can't provide a positive ID. Send an email with more description, including the damage they are doing. Good luck!

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