- Types Of Mites In Garden: Common Mites That Affect Plants
- Types of Mites
- About Plant Mites
- Mite Control
- Whiteflies Overview
- How To Get Rid Of Whiteflies
- Frequently Asked Questions
Types Of Mites In Garden: Common Mites That Affect Plants
If you are seeing signs of curled, yellow leaves, tiny webs or just sickly plants, you might have a nearly invisible foe. Mites are hard to see with the naked eye, but their presence can be monitored by sticky cards or even just shaking the plant over a piece of white paper.
Those tiny black or red specks are a sucking insect that can do a lot of damage to the health of trees, edibles, ornamentals and even some herbs. There are many types of mites, each of which has preferred plant hosts. Learn the signs of plant mites and how to deal with them.
Types of Mites
Mites may be found on landscape, ornamental or houseplants. These versatile little insects not only reduce plant vigor but can also transmit some dangerous viruses and diseases. Plant mites feed by piercing plant cells and feeding on the moisture inside. This activity leaves necrotic or yellowing spots. Speckling on foliage is a classic sign of mite activity.
One of the easier to recognize mite varieties are the spider mites. These insects produce fine webbing that lightly nets leaf tips and stems. Spider mites attack a wide range of plants from indoor to outdoor specimens.
There are also plant specific mites such as spruce mites or honey locust spider mites. They range from a fraction of a centimeter to a tiny percentage of an inch in size and come in a host of colors.
About Plant Mites
Mites are actually arachnids and more closely related to spiders. They have eight legs and a two-segmented body. Mites on garden plants are difficult to diagnose due to their tiny size. Mites on houseplants may be easier to spot, as these are usually spider mites. Indoor mites also have a more pronounced effect as the lifecycle of the arachnid is not interrupted by cold weather.
Mites in garden settings will overwinter as eggs or adults in leaf debris, bark crevasses or even on stems. Mites are prolific breeders and populations can reach a damaging level very quickly. Pest management is crucial to preventing widespread contamination in the garden or on all your houseplants.
Dry, hot conditions enhance mite activity. Keep weeds away from ornamental plants and remove infested species out of the home or greenhouse to prevent spreading the mites.
Mites in garden plants can be treated with a broad spray of miticide. It is best to try to identify your pest mite, as there are beneficial predatory mites that will eat the damaging arachnids. If you use a broad-spectrum insecticide, you risk an outbreak of bad mites since you killed the good mites.
Rinse off mites on houseplants. This significantly reduces the population if done frequently. Horticultural oil spray or neem oil work quickly on mites in both garden and indoor settings. They are non-toxic and easy to use.
Much like aphids, whiteflies are a scourge in the garden. These tiny pale pests suck the sap from plants and spread diseases. Worse yet, they’re so miniscule that they can fit through a lot of mesh screening. Because of this, the whitefly is also a major problem in greenhouses and indoor growing spaces.
But don’t panic, you can eliminate these white insects from your greenhouse or garden. Let’s talk about whiteflies, how they multiply, and how to get rid of them!
Subscribe to the Epic Gardening Podcast on iTunes or Spotify
Organic Products to Kill Whiteflies
- Safer Soap
- Bonide All-Seasons Horticultural and Dormant Spray Oil
- Safer Brand Yard & Garden Spray
- Take-Down Garden Spray
Environmental Products to Eliminate Whiteflies
- Yellow Sticky Traps
Prevention Options for Whiteflies
- Neem Oil
- Tanglefoot Tangle-Trap
|Common Name(s)||Whiteflies, citrus whitefly, ash whitefly, greenhouse whitefly, and many other related names|
|Scientific Name(s)||Multiple, all in the Aleyrodidae family of insects|
|Plants Affected||Most agricultural crops (especially brassicas, tomatoes, capsicum and citrus), some ornamentals, some medicinal crops|
|Common Remedies||Removal of pests (with water or vacuum), garlic sprays, insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, pyrethrin-based sprays, yellow sticky traps, whitefly predators (such as ladybugs, lacewings, whitefly parasite, hummingbirds, and dragonflies), neem oil, reflective mulches, and sticky ant traps around fruit trees|
Life Cycle Of Whiteflies
Rings of whitefly eggs on a leaf. Source: Scot Nelson
In the latter part of spring, whitefly adults place their eggs on the undersides of leaves. Typically, these are done in concentric patterns, towards the upper portion of the plant. An adult whitefly can produce 200-400 eggs.
Five to ten days later, the whitefly eggs will hatch into nymphs. The first instar, or larval phase, the nymphs are referred to as crawlers. They move a short distance away from their egg and then flatten against the leaf to feed. There are a total of four instars, but once the crawler has picked its location, it remains there throughout further instars.
These nymphal stages can be hard to identify. Once they’ve stopped crawling and latched onto the leaf, they look very similar to scale insects. Often their coloration blends in with the leaf they’re on, or is slightly paler in hue.
After the nymphal stages have concluded, the whitefly larva will pupate. Within a week, the whitefly emerges from its old skin as a new adult to begin its own egg-laying process. These tiny white flying bugs can live for a couple months as adults before dying off.
Common Habitats For Whiteflies
Some whiteflies on a leaf. Source: Fluffymuppet
Whiteflies live the majority of their lives on or near their host plants. While adults can fly and thus can find new plants to lay eggs on, the nymphs don’t leave their food source.
Nymphs overwinter on their host plants on the underside of leaves, where they’ve latched on to feed. However, they don’t tolerate extremely cold climates well and will die off if they are exposed to freezing conditions.
This makes them a common greenhouse pest, as the climate inside a greenhouse is usually warm enough for them to survive. In fact, there is a particular species of whitefly, the greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) which tends to live most of its lifespan indoors!
Adult whiteflies cannot survive for more than a few days without feeding on plant sap. If you’ve found tiny white bugs on plants, you may have found whiteflies. They may be eating, laying eggs, or sheltering from inclement weather.
What Do Whiteflies Eat?
Citrus whiteflies. Source: Scot Nelson
Both adults and nymphs feed on plant sap. However, different species of whiteflies feed on different kinds of plants. For instance, the cabbage whitefly (Aleyrodes proletella) feeds on brassica species.
There are whiteflies that feed on a wide range of different agricultural crops, including citrus, most vegetables and fruits, and some ornamental plants. Worse yet, whiteflies are a vector for nearly a hundred different plant diseases, and can spread those diseases during feeding.
They also leave behind honeydew, a sticky substance that can develop black mold or other fungal issues.
How To Get Rid Of Whiteflies
A bad whitefly infestation. Source: DocJ96
So now you’re asking how to get rid of whiteflies, I’m sure. While these pests can be tricky to eliminate, especially if they take up residence inside your greenhouse, there are ways to combat them. Let’s go over some of the best white fly treatments and find the right option for you!
Organic Whitefly Control
Before trying more serious white fly treatments, you should begin with something very simple: blast your plants with water. Sometimes, a good hard spray with a hose will knock off the whitefly nymphs. As they don’t move after the creeping phase, they will starve and die. This also works surprisingly well for aphid infestations.
Use a handheld vacuum to suck white flies up! While you have to exercise caution while doing this, a small handheld vacuum can be a very easy way to get rid of larvae, eggs, and the tiny white bugs themselves. Just be careful not to let it suck the leaves off your plants.
A good home remedy for whiteflies on plants is a homemade garlic spray. Garlic can be a particularly pungent aroma, so I don’t recommend this for use inside the house! Even in a greenhouse, the scent builds up. I recommend this only for outdoor use.
An insecticidal soap like Safer Soap can be used to knock down heavy infestations. Insecticidal soaps coat the eggs and larvae with a coating that makes it difficult for them to breathe. It’ll also kill off adult whiteflies.
Horticultural oils are also quite useful on this type of pest. I recommend neem oil or something like Bonide All-Seasons Horticultural and Dormant Spray Oil. Both will smother all life stages of this pest and cause them to die off.
If none of the above work, opt for a pyrethrin-based spray. My preferences are Safer Brand Yard & Garden Spray or Take-Down Garden Spray, both of which contain pyrethrin plus an oily or fatty agent. The fats or oils coat eggs and nymphs and smother them while the pyrethrin poisons all life stages. These are both easy on the plants, too!
Environmental Whitefly Control
Whitefly, sp. Aleyrodidae. Source: gailhampshire
If you have tiny white flying bugs in house or greenhouse, or even outdoors in the garden, you can use traps to catch them. My preferred choice is yellow sticky traps. White flies are drawn to the yellow color, assuming it’s a flower. They can’t escape to go and lay eggs.
Natural predators for this white bug include ladybugs, lacewings, and the whitefly parasite (which is a form of beneficial parasitic wasp). By ensuring that you have lots of beneficial insects in your yard and garden, you can quickly deal with infestations. Hummingbirds and dragonflies are also natural predators!
Tiny whitefly on fingertip. Source: davidshort
Place new plants in quarantine for a couple weeks. I know, it’s difficult to do, but before adding new plants to your garden or your greenhouse, keep them separate and observe them for a little bit. That way, if you develop problems with hidden pests, you’ll be able to deal with them fast. And you won’t introduce the whitefly infestation to your other plants!
Using neem oil on your plants will deter whiteflies from laying eggs on them. In addition, the oil will coat the eggs and larvae and smother them. Be sure to thoroughly coat both the bottoms and tops of the leaves as well as their stems for complete coverage.
Try mulching with a reflective mulch fabric. Reflective fabrics are confusing to whiteflies, and they tend to leave those plants alone.
To gauge if you’ve got a whitefly problem, use yellow index cards coated with petroleum jelly. Set them around your plants. While these aren’t as effective as yellow sticky traps, they also can catch white flies and alert you to their presence.
Use Tanglefoot Tangle-Trap around the base of citrus trees that develop whitefly infestations. While this sticky gel will not catch many of the white bugs themselves, it will stop ants from getting into the tree.
Ants can farm aphids and whiteflies for the honeydew secretion that they produce. They’re known to protect their honeydew providers from natural enemies. If you reduce the ants in your plants, you can reduce the spread of your whiteflies!
Whiteflies on plumeria. Source: Scot Nelson
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do whiteflies bite people?
A: Unlike the irritating black flies (sometimes called horseflies) that bite, whiteflies are harmless to people. They’re just not attracted to humans or our pets or livestock. Whitefly damage is found on plants only!
Q: How can I deal with whitefly honeydew on my plants?
A: Great question! The white fly releases a sticky secretion called honeydew. Left in place, this honeydew can develop black mold that can inhibit plant growth. A good spray of water should wash it away.
If black mold has formed, you may need to wipe off the mold with damp towels. Once you’ve removed the majority of the mold, spray the plant down thoroughly with neem oil, which should prevent further mold growth.
Are you ready to be rid of this white and annoying menace to your plants? I know I am. Whiteflies are horrible to deal with! Have you used any other techniques in the war against these tiny white flies? Let us know in the comments below!
The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Founder Did this article help you? × How can we improve it? × Thanks for your feedback!
We’re always looking to improve our articles to help you become an even better gardener.
While you’re here, why not follow us on Facebook and YouTube? Facebook YouTube 1.2K Shares