tiny white bugs - Knowledgebase Question

Fort Wayne, In
Question by pdd
July 1, 2010
Have tiny white bugs on my Calibrachoa - each stem is heavily coated with them. his happened to them last year also. What do?


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Answer from NGA
July 1, 2010

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Whiteflies are tiny, white insects that feed in large numbers on leaf undersides, sucking out plant juices. They secrete honeydew that may cause the growth of a sooty, black fungus on leaves. Their feeding can cause leaves to turn yellow and drop. They are easily disturbed and fly around when you brush against an infested plant. Does that sound like what you've got?

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. Whiteflies are temperature dependent and populations decrease as temperatures cool.

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