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Whiteflies: Everything You Need to Know

If you live in Florida, it’s best to have an exterminator on speed dial. Like with bedbugs, whiteflies not only run rampant worldwide but seem to thrive in the Floridian climate. Of the 1,500 total subspecies of whiteflies, 75 unique variations call Florida their home. With this many possible invaders, you may end up needing whitefly control in West Palm Beach.

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What Are Whiteflies?

Despite the name, whiteflies aren't flies. Instead, they're related to mealybugs, aphids, and scales. These are soft-bodied insects that can take flight. Identifying them is relatively easy. These are fly-like bugs that are 1/12 of an inch long. Lastly, these insects are triangle-shaped. How these insects react to disturbances is what gives them away. For example, if you rattle an infected plant or bush, you'll see a white cloud billow up from the plant. This cloud could be hundreds or thousands of insects flying in loose circles above their disturbed home. 

Places Your Likely to Find Whiteflies

You'll commonly find these menaces near plants, but not just any plant. Roses, lavender, marigolds, sage, and all ornamental plants are homes to them. For a plant to be considered ornamental, its primary trait is beauty and planted to show off its gorgeous flowers. Additionally, whiteflies can also be found in warm-weather vegetables. Each species is attracted to a different type of plant. Those that attack vegetable plants aren't the same ones disturbing your neighbors' lilacs. Here are some common plants and veggies that whiteflies often ruin:

  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Okra
  • Sweet potato
  • Cabbage
  • Citrus trees
  • Avocados
  • Mangos
  • Hibiscus plants

Whether you spot them indoors or in your garden, you'll likely first notice them on the underside of leaves. You're most likely to spot them during the day as temperatures continue to rise. 

Why Are Whiteflies Such a Large Problem?

Hyper-fast reproduction. Each fly has the potential to lay up to 400 microscopic eggs in a circular pattern. Typically, these are found under the very leaves these flies like to live. Even a handful of them can spur population explosion if unnoticed and undisturbed. The reason why Florida has a massive whitefly problem is that these insects can breed all year round in warm climates. Each round of eggs can hatch in just a week (but may take up to a month), and the newborns grow quickly. As their eggs hatch, six-legged crawlers, also known as nymphs, emerge. After several hours spent crawling around, they will then begin feeding on the plants' leaves. Once they start feeding, they won't move for a while.  These larvae will molt three times before they finally pupate and become adults. After they emerge from their pupal case, the casing will remain on the plant indefinitely. In Florida, with its perpetual summer, whiteflies will fully mature in just four weeks.

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Are My Indoor Plants Safe?

Sadly, no. If you notice leaves yellowing and falling off, you may have an infestation on your hands. All infected plants suffer terribly as more and more whiteflies feed. As far as the whiteflies are concerned, they will eat anywhere they have access to their preferred plant. As these insects feed with their needle-like mouths, they suck the sap and juices from the leaves. In doing so, the leaves wither and flake off. However, this isn't the only source of detriment caused by whiteflies. The longer whiteflies are on the plant, the more excrement and honeydew will form on the leaves. Both of these substances are breeding grounds for mold, which will lead to more problems. This sooty, black mold will attract ants, leaving your home with two sets of invaders. The best way to catch an infestation before it begins is by regularly inspecting your indoor and outdoor plants. If you happen upon white specs or a powdery white substance, these are signs you may have whiteflies present. Often in their early stages, these insects can go easily unnoticed.

Whitefly Predators

Perhaps the best things you can find in or around your plants are spiders and ladybugs. These two are the whiteflies' top predators. If you have a healthy population of either or both, chances are whitefly numbers will be held in check.  In the case of no whitefly presence and a soaring spider population, you may consider spider control. In addition to whiteflies, our talented and certified exterminators are more than ready to ride your property of most pesky insects.

Damage Caused by Whitefly Infestations

Many people don't realize that whitefly infestations are among the worst in terms of total damages. Most of the time, you will notice decimated plants long before you notice the pale assailants.  Furthermore, the damage isn't over with the feeding. Whitefly infestations can bring and spread disease to your garden and plants, whether indoors or outdoors. The most hard-hit areas are often greenhouses. 

Dealing With Whiteflies

Given how challenging it can be to remove a large whitefly infestation, most of the work in combating them lies in preventative care. You can take several steps, ranging from grabbing your hose to putting your green thumb to use. Among the easiest things you can do to control whitefly populations on your own is by encouraging birds and other insects to your backyard. In addition to spiders and ladybugs, birds, lacewings, and big-eyed bugs also feed on whiteflies.  Attracting predatory bugs and birds is incredibly easy. Start by planting a wide array of insectary plants and flowering plants as well. The more you have, the more spiders, ladybugs, and other whitefly hunters will be present.  If you have a lack of birds that frequent your yard, try installing birdhouses and adding bird feeders. Most of the time, a healthy bird population in conjunction with other natural whitefly predators is enough to prevent infestations.  Another positive step to take is to hang sticky strips above your plants and flowers, indoors and outside. In theory, the sticky strips will betray the presence of whiteflies, alerting you of their presence far before you would see them otherwise. Be careful of which fertilizers you use and how much you apply. Nitrogen-rich soil can lead to succulent plant growth, which is suitable for your garden but also has an impact on aphids. With increased nitrogen levels and increased plant growth, the aphid population can skyrocket quickly.

When to Seek Professional Help

Having a large number anywhere on your property can be reason enough to call an exterminator. With over 47 years of experience helping homeowners become pest-free, we have learned a few tricks with combating whiteflies. In general, exterminators have access to a broader arsenal of insecticides, poisons, and other methods of dealing with unwanted pests. While sometimes the options found in stores can work, our products are much more potent. Additionally, having a deep knowledge of the insect in question is a valuable asset. Whether it's ants, spiders, or whiteflies, knowing their behaviors, tendencies, and what attracts them is of great benefit.  Another reason to seek professional help is that whitefly removal often is attached to ant or spider removal as well. As mentioned earlier, ants are attracted to the mold and honeydew deposits left by whiteflies. Ant infestations are notoriously difficult for people to stop on their own. However, when dealing with pale aphids and ants simultaneously, the task often becomes impossible. The same is true for spiders, and all three pests require different means to eliminate them from your property. In the end, we will use a highly concentrated insecticide on your outdoor plants to kill off your whiteflies. The solution will cover eggs, so larvae can't hatch. Furthermore, the solution will wipe out any pupa and adults that are living in your plants.

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Frequently Asked Questions 

Are Whiteflies Dangerous to People

Unlike many other insect home invaders, aphids won't cause you direct harm. They're quite fearful of humans and will never bite or attack you. However, whiteflies can do a great deal of indirect damage to you.  Whitefly infestations attract both ants and spiders, which can cause you harm, primarily through illness and diseases spreading brought in ants, but spiders are well known to bite people. So, while whiteflies mean you no harm, the consequences of them being around can indeed harm your health.  

Should I Vacuum My Plants?

Yes! Vacuuming your indoor plants will remove eggs, larvae, pupa, and adults from the undersides of your plants. This is a great way to combat indoor infestations. NEVER empty your vacuum indoors, as the whiteflies will scatter, making their removal much more difficult.

Does Dish Soap Kill Whiteflies?

While it can be effective, this is by no means a remedy that should be trusted indefinitely. Especially suitable for indoor plants, you'll need to squirt a liberal amount of dish soap in a gallon of water.  Once you have your solution ready, you can easily apply it with a squirt bottle. Lightly cover your plant in the mix, and then gently wipe away the dead eggs and carcasses. If done correctly, you won't further harm your plant. 

Can Whiteflies Harm My Dogs or Cats?

Most of the time, the question stems from whether your beloved pet eats one or a few. If this happens, you have nothing to worry about at all. Dogs are nosy creatures and will undoubtedly come face to face with worse things than whiteflies. The same holds for cats as well.  However, the treatment plan to rid whiteflies can harm your pets. Insecticides are poisonous to anyone and anything that comes into contact with it. So, it's imperative to keep your children and pets away from recently sprayed plants and shrubbery.

Can Whiteflies Kill Plants?

Since they feed off plant chlorophyll, yes, whiteflies can kill plants. However, it will take a while for this to occur. Most of the time, catching the infestation early on will save them. The preventative measures mentioned earlier can help ensure early detection. Lastly, you can save your indoor plants if the infestation isn't yet drastic by using a soapy water mix.

Does Blasting Whiteflies with a Hose Deter Them?

If you do it correctly, yes. However, with a significant infestation, you will find it extremely difficult to drown them all in this manner. If you do elect to go this route, you'll have the best results in the early morning when they're still sluggish. If you wait until the afternoon, or even late morning, all you'll do is disturb them. If that happens, you'll know right away when a large sickly pale cloud rises from the drenched plants. 

Do Whiteflies Live in the Soil?

They do not. Whiteflies live where they eat, meaning in your bushes, flowers, and trees. They will never borrow into the ground or take refuge there either, even during storms or exterminations. This is a good thing, as the search for them is considerably narrowed to where they like to eat.


Jerri, the office manager at O'Hara Pest Control, is great to work with and said the company is the best in the business. They've always been responsive and accommodating to my schedule. They recently came to my home for my quarterly service, and I was super impressed with Jerri and the tech's willingness to work around my family and pets. They're great people, especially Jerri, and the best pest control company that I know I can count on every time.-James HartI called to get a quote, and the ladies were accommodating and kind. They quickly got back to me and set me up with an appointment for an estimate. Andrew and Brad came right on time on that the same day explained everything clearly, and helped set me up with the best treatment plan for the issue I've been having. Michael, Andrew, and Brad completed the first treatment fast and efficiently. They all were very helpful, kind, and quick! I had a much better experience with this company than the others I've used in the past & will continue to use & recommend them!- Adiel Panico
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Do You Need Whitefly Control in West Palm Beach?

Whether you've tried home remedies or not, your best decision is to seek professional help. Whitefly infestation will only worsen the longer they're left unchecked. Additionally, these invaders will attract other insects, potentially leading to a secondary infestation.  Wait no longer, call us to set up an appointment. Usually, we can have a team member come to your property on the same day you call. At O’Hara Pest Control, helping you get a pest-free home is always what we strive for with every visit. If you are ready to get back to living in a bug-free home, give us a call today.

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