You aren’t the only one excited about your thriving tomato crop. Hundreds of insects are equally fascinated and can infest the crop in large numbers. If you’ve noticed white bugs on tomato plants, you’re most likely dealing with whiteflies. These white, flying insects are usually spotted on the leaves’ underside, sucking out the sap from it.
What are whiteflies, and how do they affect your tomato plants? How would you identify and get rid of them before they destroy your crop? Continue reading to equip yourself with all the knowledge required to reverse the situation before it’s too late.
What Are Whiteflies?
Although they do have wings and can fly, they don’t fall into the category of flies. These soft-bodied insects are more closely related to mealybugs and aphids. They usually appear on the underside of the leaves in crowds. When the infested plant is moved, clusters of whiteflies will fly into the air.
There are hundreds of species of whiteflies. However, when the infestation is on tomato plants, there are three particular species that we need to worry about – greenhouse whitefly, sweetpotato whitefly, and bandedwing whitefly. Although they affect the plant in a similar way, greenhouse whiteflies are, by far, the most damaging.
How Do Whiteflies Affect The Tomato Plant?
Both the adults and the nymphs affect the plant by sucking out the sap, leaving the leaves yellow and curled. It’s the new growth that whiteflies are particularly fond of. In return, they produce honeydew, a sticky substance that causes fungal developments on the leaves.
Greenhouse whiteflies can also transmit tomato infectious chlorosis virus (TICV), quickly killing the entire crop.
After a heavy infestation, the tomato plant will start to weaken; its ability to carry out photosynthesis will also be affected. Its growth will be stunted, and eventually, the plant will die.
How To Identify Whiteflies?
These tiny yellowish insects with white wings are triangular and about 1/12 inch long. Since they’re quite distinct in appearance and are active during the day, it’s easy to recognize them. Just give the plant a slight poke, and you’ll send hundreds of these winged creatures into the air.
Check the underside of the leaves, and you’ll find crowds of them feeding tirelessly on your lovely plants. You’ll also find several eggs on the underside of the leaves. When these eggs hatch, the larvae that appear is a small white oval. Since they don’t have legs, they’ll not move around much or fly, but are just as capable of sucking plant sap as the adults! Even if you don’t find winged adult whiteflies, don’t take the larvae lightly.
If you don’t spot the cluster of insects, the damage done by these nasty pests is hard to go unnoticed. Sticky honeydew, causing the development of sooty mold on the leaves and stems, is also an indication that whiteflies have been feeding on your plant for the past few days.
Do Whiteflies Bite?
Though whiteflies can quickly kill your tomato plants, they’re not known to be harmful to humans. You might be hesitant to go near the infested plants to identify or get rid of the insects, but the fact is they’re relatively harmless to you. Do whiteflies bite? No. They don’t typically bite humans. However, they do have piercing mouthparts to suck plant juices, much like mosquitoes.
How To Get Rid Of White Bugs On Tomato Plants?
Once you’re sure you are dealing with whiteflies, there are several solutions you can go for. Over the years, these pesky creatures have developed a resistance to the standard synthetic pesticides. So chemical control won’t be of much help when dealing with whiteflies. That doesn’t mean you’ll have to put up with them. Several organic techniques have proven helpful. Here’s are the best ones you can try:
Blast off the adults and larvae with a spray of water from the hose. It will help get rid of much of the insect population.
Prune out the heavily infested leaves and dispose off after sealing in a plastic bag.
Spray the infested plants, particularly on the leaves’ underside, with insecticidal soap every three days until the whiteflies are gone. Spray the plants in the evening so that you don’t accidentally harm any of the beneficial insects.
Control Via Vacuum Pump
You can also use a battery-operated vacuum to suck off the nymphs and adults from the plants. Repeat the process every couple of days to remove whiteflies from your plants. Make sure you seal the dust cup contents in a plastic bag before dumping it in the trash.
Whitefly Control Washing Up Liquid
The National Gardening Association has formulated a simple homemade solution to deter the pests. Just add 3 to 4 tablespoons of mild dish soap or handwash to a gallon of water and spray the infested plants, preferably during the evening.
One of the best organic controls for whiteflies is neem oil. It’s lethal to adults, larvae and eggs, and is harmless to the beneficial insects once it dries. Mix about 1 oz. of oil in a gallon of water and spray it on the plants until the leaves are all wet. Remember to coat the underside of the leaves completely. Repeat the application weekly until the pests are gone.
White bugs on tomato plants can be a nuisance, but thankfully, they’re not that hard to get rid of. Remember to act fast; take the necessary steps to control the infestation before it takes control of your crop, taking away all hopes of that beautiful harvest you had in mind.