Although it can fly, the silverleaf whitefly is not actually a fly, rather, it is a hemipteran which congregates on the undersides of leaves to mate, lay eggs and feed, using piercing and sucking mouthparts to extract juices from its host plant. More than 500 species in 74 families are described as plant hosts for the polyphagous Bemisia argentifolii. The small size of the silverleaf whitefly, its ability to fly and disperse long distances and its rapid reproduction predispose this species to explosive population growth. Bemisia argentifolii is destructive in multiple ways. Areas of plants fed on by whiteflies whither and lose leaves. In addition to directly damaging plants by eating them, the whitefly larvae produce a sugary honeydew, which builds up on leaf surfaces and supports growth of sooty black and other molds. This mold residue reduces the plants’ ability to photosynthesize and thus also reduces the health of the plant, and on crop plants requires expensive washing to remove mold before they can be marketed. The silverleaf whitefly is also devastating in being a vector for over 100 plant viruses, especially Begomoviruses, which are responsible for a significant amount of crop damage and loss world-wide.
Bemisia is difficult to control with insecticides because it is difficult to reach the underside of leaves where the pests infect the plants, and also because it rapidly develops resistance to every group of insecticide developed for its control. There is hope in managing Bemisia populations through host plant resistance to viruses as well as developing plant strains that discourage these pests, e.g. with smooth, rather than hairy leaves and less waxy leaf coats, which are less attractive for whitefly oviposition. Biocontrol methods taking advantage of natural predators, parasitoids and pathogens of Bemisia, are the leading long term solutions. Insect growth regulators specific to whitefly larvae can also be used help control the pest without indiscriminately killing beneficial species.
(McAuslane, 2009; Wikipedia 2011; CABI 2001; Fasulo et al. 1995)
- Bellows TS Jr, Perring T M, Gill RJ, Headrick DH. 1994. Description of a species of Bemisia (Homoptera: Aleyrodidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 87: 195-206.
- Brown JK, Frohlich DR, Rosell RC. 1995. The sweetpotato or silverleaf whiteflies: biotypes of Bemisia tabaci or a species complex? Annual Review of Entomology 40: 511-534.
- CABI, 2011. Bemisia tabaci (tobacco whitefly). In: Invasive Species Compendium. Wallingford, UK: CAB International. Retrieved October 10, 2011 from ">http://www.cabi.org/isc/?compid=5&dsid=8927&loadmodule=datasheet&page=481&site=144"> http://www.cabi.org/isc/?compid=5&dsid=8927&loadmodule=datasheet&page=481&site=144
- Fasulo TR. et al. (1995). Whitefly Knowledgebase. UF/IFAS. ">http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/fasulo/whiteflies/wfly0002.htm"> http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/fasulo/whiteflies/wfly0002.htm
- McAuslane, H.J. 2009. Featured Creatures: sweetpotato whitefly B biotype or silverleaf whitefly. University of Florida Publication number: EENY-129. Retrieved October 10, 2011 from ">http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/veg/leaf/silverleaf_whitefly.htm"> http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/veg/leaf/silverleaf_whitefly.htm
- Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 10 May 2011. "Bemisia tabaci". Retrieved October 10, 2011 from ">http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bemisia_tabaci&oldid=428373157"> http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bemisia_tabaci&oldid=428373157
- Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 16 July 2011. "Silverleaf whitefly". Retrieved October 10, 2011 from ">http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Silverleaf_whitefly&oldid=439803976"> http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Silverleaf_whitefly&oldid=439803976
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