Whiteflies in your greenhouse? Here's how to deal with them
What are Whiteflies?
Glasshouse Whitefly are small, white and moth like. They lay eggs on the undersides of leaves. They are sap suckers so they eat plant material and drop sticky secretions onto leaves below.
Left uncontrolled they will overwhelm the plant by weakening it. Undersides of leaves become populated with Whiteflies adults and white eggs (scales).
Whitefly are fairly inactive in cool temperatures over Winter, but multiply very quickly in warm Spring and Summer weather. They fly about at the slightest disturbance, like tiny moths, and may even create ghostly white clouds in the air.
How to identify Whitefly
They are nearly always moving and grow in numbers quickly. They look like tiny months rather than flies. They are not "whitefly" unless body and wings are a ghostly white.
The glasshouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) is the most common. You can recognise them by their heart-shape profile when looked from above. Tobacco whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) have parallel wings which are longer, and when folded you can still see a strip of their back between the wings. There are up to 50 different species of whitefly in Europe, but from a gardeners point of view they are all plant pests.
Glasshouse Whitefly on the underside of a leaf
These predatory wasps and work by taking over the whitefly eggs. Encarsia works best with temperatures above 21°C but prefer cool glasshouse conditions below 25°C with 12hr+ daylight hours. Generally, this means introducing Encarsia from mid March to August, although it can be earlier or later with extra heat and light.
Soft SoapIf temperatures don't allow the use of Encarsia then spraying with this non chemical spray 3 times a week should control the outbreak. This can gradually be reduced to fortnightly as a preventative measure.