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Whitefly (Various spp.)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Whitefly

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Image Credit: Manzeal Khanal, taken at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center, Uvalde, TX
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Tiny flies with white wings, adult Whiteflies look nothing like their younger selves.

Updated: 01/06/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Whiteflies are very small bugs that are not actually in the Fly family. They are considered true bugs, and their life cycle is unique. After hatching, a nymph that is barely visible walks along a leaf until it finds a suitable place to spend the next few weeks. It settles down, loses its legs and continues to molt. In this stationary form, it looks more like scale: round, eyeless, and immobile. During this stage, it feeds on the plant?s juices until it pupates into a winged adult. The Whitefly is a rapid reproducer, so large numbers of them can injure plant vigor and health. It secretes a sticky, sweet substance called honeydew that can become black with mildew over time, ruining the appearance of ornamental plants. It can also transmit plant viruses, so it is considered a pest to commercial growers as well as home gardeners. They are so small, that a hand lens may be needed to clearly see what it is when examining leaves.

One species is found in hothouses and are called Greenhouse Whiteflies. Another species, the Silverleaf Whitefly, molts out of its exoskeleton, leaving behind a silvery shell of its former self. All Whiteflies are unable to survive cold temperatures. Sticky cards are often hung in greenhouses to attract and capture adult Whiteflies, preventing them from harming plants. Certain small wasps and beetles are natural controls. Finding a Whitefly on a plant should inspire a thorough inspection of leaves.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Striped or banded insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hemiptera
        Family: Aleyrodidae
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          Genus: Various
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            Species: spp.

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Various spp.
Other Name(s): Greenhouse Whitefly
Category: True Bug
Size (Adult; Length): 1mm to 3mm (0.03" to 0.11")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: white; green; yellow; gray
Descriptors: small; white wings; black bands on wings; dirty wings; green body; white body; all white; yellow body; red eyes; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 1mm (0.0in) and 3mm (0.1in)
Lo: 1mm
Md: 2mm
Hi: 3mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Whitefly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Whitefly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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