Whiteflies and Retail Poinsettias

While skimming the plant material last night at a large retail store. "Not to mention names" I came across some beautiful coral and orange poinsettias. The beauty of the plant was overcast by the present of whiteflies. Not just a few. "LOTS!" Touching a leaf would send a white cloud of adults whirling about only to return to that plant and the others near by. You don't have to be an entomologist to make logical buying decision. Taking this plant home would spread adult whiteflies easily to other plant material in your home. Whiteflies in the nursery industry are becoming increasingly difficult to control due to the insects ability to develop chemical resistance to pesticides. This can be accounted to the whiteflies short generational cycle and the overuse and non-rotation of different chemicals.

Controlling whiteflies at home is possible. The home owner can use a combination of physically control "removing the whitefly" along with insecticidal soaps, or dish soap to help eliminate the pest. This is not feasible for commercial growers. However, very easy for the homeowner with just a few plants.

1. "Outside" vacuum the flying adults off the plant.

2. Gently wipe the back of the leaves down with a mild insecticidal soap or dish soap to help dislodge the younger instars. (Do this once every 7 days for 4 weeks)

The Life cycle of the whitefly is approximately 30 Days (from egg to reproducing adult). If no egg laying adult can be allowed to mature for 30 days to lay new eggs you should be in the clear.

The best offense is a great defense. Do NOT bring plant material home that is infected with pest and disease. This is important not only for you but also the retail store. A slow sell through due to pest will encourage the store to find new plant vendors who may have pest control as a higher priority than profits.

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