Bemisia tabaci. Photography credit: Stephen Ausmus

Whitefly Infestation

Culture

by Anu Dharmani

Originally published in BellaOnline

Posted by Sys Admin almost 4 years ago.

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With the fast advancing summer season many unwanted visitors will be visiting your orchids. My garden is are under attack by whiteflies. These are one of the persistent pests that start appearing on orchids from late spring or early summers. The increasing temperatures in summers support the whitefly growth. These pest favours some plants more than others. In my case, crotons are bearing most of the brunt and from the crotons these pests are now attacking orchids as well as other plants.

The pest which is attacking my plants is ‘Sweetpotato Whitefly’ (Bemisia tabaci). This pest mostly feeds on herbaceous plants.

Identifying White fly
• They appear as tiny white to yellowish specks on the underside of leaves. 
• When the infested orchid/plant is disturbed, you see streaks of white flying around you.

How to know whether Whitefly has invaded your orchids or not?
• Check the underside of the leaves that is where the pests rest and breeds.
• Leaves start turning yellow and fall off.

Damage caused by Whitefly 
• Whitefly cause deformity in leaves. They become twisted or their margins take on a wavy appearance.
• Whitefly suck the sap, which is the life force of the plant. As a result the orchid weakens and very acute infestation can even kill the orchid.
• They sometimes also carry viruses, which are very difficult to control.
• Whitefly release a sweet substance called ‘honey dew’, which in turn attracts sooty mould forming fungus. 

How to prevent/control Whitefly in orchids
• Remove the plant that is attracting the pest. 
• Regularly check the underside of the leaves. 
• Shake the infected plant frequently to disturb the pests and keep bright yellow-strip traps nearby to catch them. You can buy or can make them at home. For making them at home: Take a bright/shiny/laminated strip of yellow paper. Cut out strips from it and rub a sticky solution (can be Vaseline or any kind of thick oil that does not dry) and the strips are ready to use.
• Strong odours seems to discourage whitefly. So you can burn incense sticks around your orchids.
• Introducing whitefly predators such as Encarsia Formosa can also help in conrolling the pests. 

I have tried different methods to tackle with the problem. I have been manually cleaning the underside of the leaves, sooty mould and whitefly nymphs all are cleared. Further, I have used a homemade solution suggested by the Old farmer’s Almanac for the whiteflies, which will not harm the friendly insects in your garden. 

Using most of the methods and tricks mentioned above, I have been able to control the pests, though they keep coming back! Probably someone in the neighbourhood is keeping them as pets!!

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