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.