Gardening Harmful insects

Control Whiteflies… With a Hand Vac!

Hand vacuum picking up whiteflies.

Ill.: Claire Tourigny

For a quick, easy and—quite honestly!—fun way of controlling the dreaded whitefly, a major pest of houseplants and seedlings at this time of year, paint the tip of a hand-held vacuum yellow, turn it on, and run it over and around the infested plants. The vacuum’s noise and vibrations cause a panic among the whiteflies and they’ll take to the air, forming a cloud of what appears to be little bits of flying dandruff. 

It so happens that whiteflies, like many insects, are particularly fond of the color yellow, which, to their eyes, is the shade of a sickly and therefore desirable plant. So, after a few seconds of panicked flight, they’ll seek out the comfort of the nearest source of yellow, looking for a yellowing plant on which to land … and will instead find themselves pulled into the mouth of the vacuum.

You’ll have to repeat this technique every 4 or 5 days for 2 or 3 weeks, because the vacuum will only pick up adult whiteflies, not the immobile larvae. But by repeating the treatment, you’ll get the young adults as they hatch.

There is something very satisfying about sucking up your enemies with a hand vac. It’s too bad it doesn’t work on mealybugs! (Hint: the latter don’t fly!)

Adapted from an article that first appeared on this blog on April 7, 2016.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

6 comments on “Control Whiteflies… With a Hand Vac!

  1. Ann Mackay

    Clever idea – and a good reason to get a hand vac!

  2. Oh, this sounds amusing in regard to whiteflies, but I have heard of using a shop vac to remove swarming bees! I am still uncertain if the bees . . . survive.

  3. I’ve got one of those cordless dysons. I’m sure it would suck up the whitefly……I’m a bit worried though it would take the whole cabbage with it!

  4. great, but how do u get the whiteflies out of the vac without them going everywhere?

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