Info for the Indoor Gardener

Appearing like a cloud of tiny moths, whiteflies are garden pests that are hard to get rid of. Here's what the Indoor Gardener needs to know for healthy, happy houseplants.


  • whiteflies are about 1/16th inch
  • look like tiny moths
  • white, as name implies
  • slow-fliers
  • covered with a white, waxy, powdery substance
  • nymph stage: scale-like; flat, oval, immobile

Common garden pests: whiteflies


  • larvae - bottom of leaves
  • partial, but not limited - to the following house plants:
    • begonia
    • coleus
    • ferns
    • hibiscus
    • ivy
    • lantana
    • poinsettia


  • eggs laid directly on the leaves
  • these garden pests can fly to neighboring houseplants


  • whiteflies suck plant juices
  • nymph stage feeds on leaves
  • spreads plant viruses
  • sooty mold interferes with photosynthesis


  • easiest to detect of garden pests
  • fly off house plant when brush against or move it
  • house plants look weak
  • leaves yellow
  • leaves also can curl into cuplike shape
  • slowed growth
  • drops leaves
  • sticky honeydew excretions become evident
  • dark patches when sooty mold forms on honeydew
  • will flock to yellow sticky traps
  • ants find and congregate around the honeydew

Whiteflies on Plant Leaf


  • immediately isolate house plant
  • adult whiteflies tend to be resistant to pesticides
  • if possible, treat outside, then bring plant indoors quickly
  • adults fly off plant when sprayed
  • best to spray weekly while in scale stage
  • also, dip in insecticidal soap while in scale stage
  • Chemical Sprays: Malathion, Diazinon
  • repeat insecticides 7-14 days: pyrethrins, resmethrin, tetramethrin, sumethrin
  • use systemic insecticide, such as imidacloprid

  • Natural predators for use in greenhouse or conservatory:
    • green lacewing
    • ladybugs
    • pirate bugs
    • predatory wasps
  • try a small vacuum on these garden pests
  • if nothing else works, get rid of the houseplant

For Botanists, Scientists, Outdoor Gardeners, and School Reports

KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Arthoropoda
CLASS: Insecta
ORDER: Hemiptera
SUBORDER: Sternorrhyncha
SUPERFAMILY: Aleyrodoidea
FAMILY: Aleyrodidae
   Bemisia argentifolii - silverleaf
   Bemisia tabaci - sweet potato
   Trialeurode vaporariorum - greenhouse
   Trialeurode abutilonea - banded-winged

NOTE: most whiteflies are not plant specific, in spite of common names


  • eggs are laid directly on leaves
  • eggs hatch within 3-7 days
  • nymph stage: feed voraciously
  • nymph stage takes 2-4 weeks
  • nymphs look similar to scale insects
  • next is inactive pupal stage
  • pupal stage lasts 1-2 weeks
  • adults lay eggs for up to 2 months
  • full life cycle = 4-5 weeks

Click to purchase Whitefly Sticky Traps from Gardeners Supply Co

DISCLAIMER: The Indoor-Gardener.com provides information through data research and personal experience and does not mean to recommend or refute any product used for insect control inside or outside the house. Read and follow instructions carefully as listed on all products. Indoor-Gardener.com is not responsible for use of any product or method described on these pages, nor for any possible adverse affects of such use. The legal use of chemicals for plant health can change, and it is solely the responsibility of the user of such chemicals to remain in compliance with such laws. Indoor-Gardener.com and Batya D. Wininger assume no liability resulting from the use of any information on these pages. While this website does its best to provide only the best, up-to-date information to its visitors, there can be changes and mistakes. Read labels carefully and follow instructions for use.

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