You have this pretty plant, safe indoors from the ravages of frost or insect predators – or so you thought. And then, one morning, you go to water it, and you find hundreds – nay, it seems thousands of creepy white insects covering your pretty plant. What can you do? How can you save it?
Here we show you how you can rescue your houseplants from the dreaded whitefly. It is not too difficult once you know the essential tricks and treatments you need. Your pretty plant can recover and once again bring delight to your eyes.
Damage caused by whiteflies to indoor plants
What damage to plants do the tiny whiteflies do? First, they suck the juices or sap from the plant – and if there are enough of them, this will make the leaves shrivel, turn yellow, and die. Eventually, the whole plant succumbs. But they have a secondary adverse effect — they carry disease. There are several viruses they can transmit, through their mouths, from diseased plants to healthy ones.
The whiteflies naturally target stressed plants. If you forget to water your plants and they become very dry – then the whitefly finds it easy to settle down to a good meal. But they also like overwatered plants!
What do whiteflies look like?
The eggs laid on the underside of your plants are a grey-white cylindrical shape. After 6-10 days, depending to some extent on the temperature, they hatch. They then go through several nymph stages lasting 11-14 days before becoming the pupa or larva. The nymphs find a feeding spot and then lose the ability to walk, and so they stay in the same place until they pupate and become adults. This happens after 6-10 days when they emerge as adults, with the ability to fly. When in fly form, they can live for just over a month.
So as you can see, the whiteflies go from eggs to adults in about three weeks – and since each female can lay up to 250 eggs, the population quickly builds up. They tend to like a temperature of around 70 degrees for optimum growth and development.
The whiteflies live on the sap of your plants – like aphids. You can tell which visitors you have by whether or not they can fly – whiteflies can, but aphids can’t. Both are small, white insects, but the whitefly has powdery-looking wings.
You can have a look at some whitefly here in this YouTube video:
Where do whiteflies come from?
Whiteflies can come from anywhere, and it often seems instantaneous.
Usually, they hitch a ride on plants or vegetables you bring in from outside. So you need to check that if you buy plants, they are quarantined for a few days to protect your indoor plants, or you treat them if there is any sign of little grey eggs on the undersides of leaves.
Because whiteflies fly, they can also get inside of your home. Because they are so small, even if you have a protective fly net, they can squeeze through the mesh.
Sometimes the soil is contaminated with their eggs. You can either take out the top layer or drench the dirt with a product like HydroOrganics HOGNCO16OZ goGNATS Liquid Concentrate 16 Ounce Plant Insect. You can DIY a drench with a mixture of 5 parts water with two parts rubbing alcohol and a tablespoon of liquid soap in a 32-ounce spray bottle.
How to treat an indoor whitefly infestation
The first thing to do is to prune off the worst affected leaves. Dunk them in a soapy solution to kill off the bugs before depositing them in a closed trash bin outside.
To get rid of whiteflies on indoor plants, you will need a two-part approach if you have an infestation. First, you spray to kill the larvae and eggs and afterward kill the adults – who fly away when you disturb the plant.
If you want to buy a ready-to-use soap spray, there is one that is effective for aphids, whiteflies, and more. Natria 706230A Insecticidal Soap Insect Killer and Miticide for Organic Gardening, 24 oz, Ready-to-Use is fast-acting and kills adults as well as larvae and nymphs. You can use this soap spray indoors or outside but note that the adult whiteflies may fly away!
You could use a vinegar/water mix as a spray. Be careful to douse the underside of the leaves and apply a good spray to the top where the adult white insects have gathered. The smell lingers a while but does disperse. We suggest three parts of water to one part of vinegar with a dash of mild liquid soap.
You should follow this up with Neem oil for a longer-lasting effect. Premium Organic Neem Oil (8 Oz.) Virgin, Cold Pressed, Unrefined 100% Pure Natural Grade A. Excellent Quality. is 100% Cold-pressed pure Organic Neem Oil, completely natural, totally free of harsh chemicals. There is a 4 oz size if the 8 oz is too much – but it does have a garlic smell. Spray it into the underside of the leaves, where most of the larvae hang out.
It’s best to avoid spraying in direct sunlight because the oil can cause the plant to scorch, and always test one or two leaves before treating the entire plant. You may need to repeat this every few days if you have a terrible infestation – so keep checking and at the earliest signs of more whitefly spray again.
For a severe infestation, you may like to try a powerful chemical insecticide. The BioAdvanced Plant Food Insect Control Spikes, 10 Spikes with Imidacloprid Plant Food Plus Insect Control Spikes feeds your plant while killing the whitefly larva, and the effect lasts for around eight weeks. You may, however, prefer to use more natural methods of insect control.
How to get rid of whiteflies on indoor plants
You need to tackle the eggs, the larvae, and the adult whiteflies. The adults can fly away when you spray, so you need a backup plan. Once you have dealt with the infestation, treat the plants with a soap spray, and set sticky traps. These are very effective, and by using the color yellow – they attract the insects to them.
You can get small, neat ready-made traps like the 24 Pack Sticky Traps for Indoor Outdoor Natural Pest Control, Fruit Fly Trap and Fungus Gnat Traps for House Plants, Whitefly, Mosquito Bits, Flying Insects, Fly Traps Save Your Plants (Yellow) for indoor and outdoor natural pest control. This pack has six different patterns! Butterfly, Sun Flower, Carrot, Bird, Cat, Tulip. The top part is double-sided and sticky, but the sharp bottom is non-sticky, so you won’t get glue all over your hands as you insert them around your plants.
They are non-toxic and eco-friendly, so they will not harm our pets or yourself. They are straightforward to use and not too dominant to spoil the appearance of your plants. You can use them any time of the year and catch the adults attracted to the yellow color.
If you want bigger traps, larger yellow double-sided traps are available, like the Gideal 20-Pack Dual-Sided Yellow Sticky Traps for Flying Plant Insect Such as Fungus Gnats, Whiteflies, Aphids, Leafminers,Thrips - (6x8 Inches, Included 20pcs Twist Ties).
You may like to watch this 6-minute video about dealing with a whitefly infestation on an indoor plant:
If you have indoor plants that whiteflies tend to avoid, bring them closer to your affected plant once the affected plant is treated. Some plants whitefly do not like include mint and nasturtiums.
How to treat whitefly larvae and eggs indoors
The whitefly larvae and eggs are not too hard to kill. Spray with an insecticidal soap mix to kill them and then follow this through with a spray of Neem oil – that will keep the larvae away for good. Ensure you spray the underside of the leaves where the eggs and larvae are frequently found.
Treat the soil if you think that might be necessary.
How to prevent whitefly indoors
The primary way to prevent whiteflies indoors is not to bring them in in the first place.
If you bring plants in from the garden, you should quarantine them to prevent carrying whiteflies into your home. So if you summer your plants outside and get them in for winter – you might well be importing whiteflies. The same goes for bringing fruit, vegetables, and flowers in from the garden or the store!
They can float or fly in on the air from your garden – and they are small enough to fit through the mesh in screens.
Contaminated potting soil is another possible route of entry. You may have to replace at least the surface area or drench it with an egg-killing solution.
Getting rid of whitefly on your houseplants is a two-part endeavor. You need to tackle the eggs and larvae with soap or even an insecticide spray. Then it would be best if you went after the adults who can fly away when the plant is disturbed. Traps are the most effective method – and there are even ones in pretty shapes and patterns! The adults are attracted to the color yellow – so the best traps are yellow.
Effective treatment of the eggs and larvae requires a two-part approach as well. Firstly, an insecticidal soap solution works for immediate effect and then follows a longer-lasting Neem oil spray. These methods will eliminate the little pests – but you will have to remain vigilant and repeat the treatments at intervals to ensure you have stopped them.
After eliminating the whiteflies on your indoor plants, it’s essential not to bring any more into your house. But now you know exactly what to do and how to go about getting rid of the whitefly, you will be able to enjoy fly-free plants in our home.
Will vinegar kill whiteflies?
Spraying the leaves’ underside with vinegar/water mix will kill whitefly – but you will need to repeat it. You can make vinegar traps by dowsing a chunk of cotton wool in vinegar and covering it with cling film. Punch a few holes with a needle, and voila. The smell disperses after an hour or so.
Will dish soap kill whiteflies?
Yes – dish soap kills whiteflies. You can make your spray by adding a teaspoon of mild dish soap to a liter of water. Spray the underside of the leaves and repeat at intervals. You may want to wash off the dead bugs since they attract other insects.
Are whiteflies harmful to humans?
These tiny whiteflies can be a hazard for humans. They can carry diseases from other plants to your plants – which are then unsuitable for eating. In some places, the infestation can be so severe that crops must be destroyed by farmers, leaving them without a source of income.