Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Quick Tips

Giant Whitefly

Published   6/22

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Adult giant whiteflies.

Adult giant whiteflies.

Giant whitefly adults and nymphs.

Giant whitefly adults and nymphs.

Sooty mold and wax on hibiscus from giant whitefly infestation.

Sooty mold and wax on hibiscus from giant whitefly infestation.

Healthy yellow whitefly nymph surrounded by black ones that have been parasitized, including one with
an exit hole at right.

Healthy yellow whitefly nymph surrounded by black ones that have been parasitized, including one with an exit hole at right.

Giant whiteflies can cover a beautiful plant with white fuzzy wax and sticky honeydew, turning it into an unsightly mess. This invasive whitefly has spread northward into many areas of California since it was first discovered in San Diego County in 1992. Although affected plants may be weakened, they rarely die. To manage giant whitefly, wash off plants with water and allow naturally occurring predators and insect parasites to help control populations.

What plants are affected?

  • Many ornamentals including hibiscus, giant bird of paradise, begonia, Xylosma, and others.
  • Fruit trees including citrus, avocado, mulberry and banana.

Look or these damage symptoms on affected plants:

  • Long, white, waxy filaments produced by the whitefly give the leaf surface a bearded appearance. These hairlike strands may be mistaken for a fungal infection.
  • Large amounts of sticky honeydew excreted by the whitefly as it feeds on plant sap.
  • Black sooty mold growing on the honeydew.

How to recognize the giant whitefly:

  • Adults are small (3/16 inch long), white with light brown markings on their wings, and usually found in groups on the undersides of leaves.
  • Nymphs are small, oval, and yellowish. They have no legs and don't move.

To reduce problems, use a combination of methods that includes:

  • Removing infested leaves.
  • Washing giant whiteflies off leaves with a strong stream of water.
  • Planting species less susceptible to giant whitefly.
  • Avoiding insecticides that injure “natural enemies” (beneficial insects and spiders), such as lacewings, lady beetles, syrphid flies, and parasitic wasps.

What about insecticides?

  • Don’t use insecticides if beneficial insects, including parasites and predators, are present in the area.
  • To confirm the presence of parasitic wasps, use a magnifying glass to look for parasite exit holes on giant whitefly nymphs or darkened nymphs.
  • If you do choose to use an insecticide, select least toxic products such as insecticidal soaps or oils. Spray the undersides of the leaves where whitefly colonies are found.
  • Remember to follow pesticide label directions.

Read more about Giant Whitefly.

Minimize the use of pesticides that pollute our waterways. Use nonchemical alternatives or less toxic pesticide products whenever possible. Read product labels carefully and follow instructions on proper use, storage, and disposal.


Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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