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Tobacco Whitefly

Bemisia tabaci

Tobacco Whitefly, Silverleaf Whitefly, Sweet Potato Whitefly, Cotton Whitefly

CSIRO ScienceImage 1359 Silverleaf whitefly Bemisia tabaci biotype B

by CSIRO. CC BY 3.0

A green leaf infected with whitefly pests
Bemisia tabaci is a species of Whitefly that primarily targets Nicotine plants, but can also be found on other plants in the Solanaceae family, particularly tomatoes. They're common plant pests in agriculture and horticulture. Not only do Whiteflies impact a plants ability to photosynthesise, they're also sometimes vectors of disease. Typical damage includes curling leaves, wilting, and early leaf drop. The Whiteflies and eggs are located beneath leaves, so it's advised to check plants regularly to catch infestations early.
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Bemisia tabaci is a pest to many field crops.
Can be a potential vector for spreading disease.


This record represents a complex of 24 closely related species, while the biology is slightly different, while morphologically, they're indistinguishable. Adults: Whitefly adults are white, around 1 mm and possess four wings, resembling a tiny moth. Nymphs: Oval and flattened, translucent with a white to green tinge. They look like armoured scale insects. There are four instars. Eggs: Whitefly eggs are pear-shaped, flattened and 0.2 mm. The eggs are too small to see with the naked eye. Whitefly eggs are laid on the underside of leaves.


Whitefly eggs are typically laid in a circular arrangement, beneath the leaves. Feeding causes stunted growth, as well as curling leaves. Honeydew may be found on the upper surfaces of leaves. Honeydew can result in secondary infections in the form of black mould. Ants are attracted to Honeydew and can sometimes make an infestation worse.












Biological treatment

Whitefly infestations tend to be more problematic indoors, for example, in a glasshouse setting. Planting rhubarb in greenhouses is thought to deter whitefly. Whitefly lay their eggs underneath the leaves of plants, so these areas should be inspected regularly. Any spacing between plants should be kept clear of weeds and debris. The use of netting can sometimes improve protection with garden plants. For lighter infestations, plants can be gently hosed down to remove whitefly and eggs. Ant traps placed near affected plants will aid controlling any secondary infestations. Whiteflies are drawn to the colour yellow. You can use yellow cards or sticky traps to attract whitefly and monitor the infestation level. Insecticidal soaps and neem oil can give some control over whitefly, and it's less harmful to the environment when compared with pesticides. Bottle labels should be read carefully. Oils can react badly with high temperatures and burn the surfaces of plants. Beneficial garden creatures such as beetles, wasps, lacewings and spiders will eat whiteflies. These can be attracted into the garden using a few simple tricks, such as incorporating insect hotels or by letting parts of the garden grow a little wild.

Chemical treatment

There are pesticides available for home gardeners. Please be warned; whiteflies are capable of developing tolerances to the toxins found in sprays. Systemic insecticides can sometimes eliminate whitefly, be sure to get good coverage beneath the leaves (where the younger whitefly hide). Please read bottle instructions carefully, taking care not to spray any plants that are in flower. Such pesticides can be extremely toxic to wildlife, so should be applied with extreme caution. Likewise, if you are planning to eat your harvest, make sure the food plant is listed on the bottle label and follow instructions.


Various plants in Solanaceae.

Tobacco Plant

Nicotiana spp.

Some red Solanum lycopersicum tomatoes in a garden


Solanum lycopersicum

A close up of a white purple Ipomoea batatas flower on a plant

Sweet Potato

Ipomoea batatas

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