Trialeurodes vaporariorum


Physical characteristics: Greenhouse whiteflies are small insects measuring 0.06 inches (1.5 millimeters) in length. Males and females are similar in size and appearance and winged. The yellowish to pale brown body and wings are coated with a powdery white wax. Larvae are flat and yellowish.

Geographic range: They are found on all continents except Antarctica.

Habitat: They are usually found on twigs and the undersides of leaves on a wide variety of tropical plants. They are also widespread on cultivated plants in greenhouses.

Diet: Greenhouse whiteflies feed on plant sap.

Behavior and reproduction: After hatching, the larvae wander for several hours before finding a feeding site on the underside of a leaf.

The greenhouse whitefly is a serious pest in greenhouses. When feeding in large numbers, they can weaken a plant by draining its sap. (Illustration by Amanda Humphrey. Reproduced by permission.)

After piercing the leaf with their mouthparts the larvae will remain at that same spot until they reach adulthood. The exoskeleton of the last (fourth) larval stage becomes a protective case where the winged adult develops. Both adults and larvae feed in groups. The adults move about and feed at different sites and will quickly fly if disturbed.

Males and females mate all year long. The yellow eggs are attached to the leaf surface in curved rows.

Greenhouse whiteflies and people: This species is a serious pest in greenhouses. When feeding in large numbers they can weaken a plant by draining its sap. Adults and larvae produce a sticky waste product called honeydew. Sooty mold develops on the honeydew. Cultivated plants covered with black, fuzzy mold do not sell, resulting in growers losing money.

Conservation status: This species is not endangered or threatened. ■

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