Do Whiteflies in Florida Carry Disease?

Whiteflies are a year-round problem in Florida, and when they invade your garden, they’re very difficult to get rid of. While whiteflies don’t bite people, they’re happy to feast on the plants in your garden, sucking the sap from plant leaves as they lay more eggs and reproduce. But do whiteflies carry disease? The truth is whiteflies can transmit several major plant and vegetable viruses. Here’s what you need to know about these troublesome pests, and how you can control them.

What Are Whiteflies?

Whiteflies are soft-bodied, winged insects that are white in color. These bugs can be as tiny as 1/12 of an inch long, looking like tiny white triangles as they travel across the plants in your garden.

In South Florida, whiteflies do major damage to ornamental plants and trees, sucking the sap right out of the leaves. Many of these plants–especially ficus hedges–are used for privacy and leaving the plants with no leaves eliminates the privacy homeowners enjoy.

If you have a vegetable garden, you should be on the lookout for whiteflies. They’re fond of warm-weather vegetable plants like cabbage, eggplant, peppers, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. If you notice these bugs on your plants and do nothing, you’d be surprised at how quickly they can reproduce. In the spring and summer in South Florida, rising temperatures speed up the whitefly life cycle even more, so they have the potential to ruin your garden very quickly.

Whiteflies Can Transmit Viruses

In addition to the damage they cause from sucking out the sweet sap of plant leaves, whiteflies also inject salivary fluids while feeding. The viruses they carry can cause plant disorders and transmit plant viruses. So, keeping whitefly populations under control not only keeps the plants in your own garden healthy, but it also protects plants in your region’s entire ecosystem.

Whiteflies Are Difficult to Control

Once whiteflies have infested and begun to multiply, they’re extremely hard to get rid of. In many cases, they’re even resistant to pesticides. You can take some proactive steps to prevent a whitefly infestation, like:

  • Encouraging natural predators of whiteflies, like ladybugs, spiders, and dragonflies, by creating a habitat that’s attractive to them. In some situations, this can also reduce the mosquito population in your yard.
  • Ensuring that your irrigation system is providing sufficient water to your plants’ roots, so plants aren’t stressed and prone to whitefly defoliation.
  • Mulching early in the season with aluminum reflective mulch, making it harder for whiteflies to find host plants.

What to Do If Whiteflies Invade Your Yard

If you’ve spotted whiteflies on your plants, don’t wait to act. It can be difficult to deal with a whitefly infestation on your own, and chemicals advertised to kill whiteflies often end up killing beneficial insects. At the first sign of a whitefly infestation, call the whitefly removal experts at Service Choice of South Florida at (954) 568-9955. After your free consultation, we’ll create a customized treatment plan that lets you say goodbye to whiteflies for good.