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How to Manage Pests

UC Pest Management Guidelines

Silverleaf whitefly adult.


Silverleaf Whitefly

Scientific Name: Bemisia argentifolii

(Reviewed 8/07, updated 10/09)

In this Guideline:


Several species of whiteflies may infest lettuce. Use a hand lens to distinguish silverleaf whitefly from other whiteflies by examining both immatures and adults. Silverleaf whitefly adults are tiny (0.06 inch, 1.5 mm long), yellowish insects with white wings. Their wings are held somewhat vertically tilted, or rooflike, over the body and generally do not meet over the back but have a small space separating them. Greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) adults, the species that are most similar in appearance, hold their wings flatter over the back and there is no space where the two wings meet in the center of the back. Banded whiteflies (Trialeurodes abutilonia) have brownish bands across their wings.

Whiteflies are found mostly on the undersides of leaves. They fly readily when plants are disturbed. The tiny, oval eggs hatch into a first larval stage that has legs and antennae and is mobile. Both legs and antennae are lost after the first molt and subsequent stages remain fixed to the leaf surface. The last nymphal stage, often called the pupa or the red-eye nymph, is the stage that is easiest to identify. Silverleaf whitefly pupae are oval, whitish, and soft. The edge of the pupa tapers down to the leaf surface and has few to no long waxy filaments around the edge. In contrast, greenhouse whitefly pupae have many long waxy filament around the edge and the edge is somewhat vertical where it contacts the leaf surface.


Lettuce is not a major host of silverleaf whitefly in the San Joaquin Valley. It does not occur on spring lettuce and generally only very low populations occur on fall lettuce. Feeding by whiteflies produces sticky honeydew on the leaves. A black, sooty mold often grows on the excreted honeydew. Silverleaf whitefly feeding can cause a stunting and yellowing of head lettuce.


Biological Control
Several wasps, including species in the Encarsia and Eretmocerus genera, parasitize whiteflies. Whitefly nymphs are also preyed upon by bigeyed bugs, lacewing larvae, and lady beetles. Silverleaf whitefly is an introduced pest that has escaped its natural enemies. Some indigenous native parasites and predators do attack it, but do not keep it below damaging numbers. The lady beetle Delphastus pusillus is being introduced into southern California to assist in biological control.

Cultural Control
Plant your earliest lettuce at least one-half mile upwind from cotton, melon, or cole crop fields. Destroy crop residues from these crops because they may harbor whiteflies after harvest. Remove weeds that host the whitefly and the virus. Whitefly populations in desert areas decrease in mid-October and November, so whenever possible, delay planting to avoid infestation. Present research indicates sprinklers may reduce whitefly populations and virus incidence.

Organically Acceptable Methods
Biological and cultural controls are organically acceptable.

Monitoring and Treatment Decisions
Routinely check field margins for whiteflies; these areas are usually infested first. Be especially alert for rapid population build up when nearby host crops are in decline. During these critical periods, check lettuce fields twice weekly. Sticky traps may be useful in detecting initial whitefly migrations into fields. Allow beneficials an opportunity to control light whitefly infestations. If higher populations are present at the field margins than the field centers, then treat only the field margins. This approach will reduce treatment costs and help preserve beneficials in the field. Thresholds are not available for silverleaf whitefly in lettuce.

The most effective treatment is to apply imidacloprid (Admire) at planting. This application will provide control in fields where silverleaf whitefly problems are anticipated.

Whitefly control with insecticides is maximized by thorough spray coverage. Ground application may give more complete coverage than air.

Common name Amount/Acre** R.E.I.+ P.H.I.+
(trade name)   (hours) (days)

Calculate impact of pesticide on air quality
Bee precaution pesticide ratings
When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to the impact on natural enemies and honey bees and environmental impact. Not all registered pesticides are listed. Always read label of product being used.
  (Admire Pro) 7–10.5 fl oz 12 21
  COMMENTS: Placement is critical to successful control; see label for details. Do not apply more than 0.38 lb a.i. AdmirePro/acre/year.
  (Venom 20 SG) see comments 12 see comments
  COMMENTS: Rate for soil application is 1.13-1.34 lb/acre; for foliar it is 0.44-0.67 lb/acre. PHI for soil applications is 21 days; for foliar it is 7 days.
  (Platinum) 5–11 fl oz 12 30
  (Movento) 4–5 fl oz 24 3
  (Oberon 2SC) 7–8.5 fl oz 12 7
F. BIFENTHRIN* 0.08–0.1 lb a.i. 12 7
  (Capture 2EC) 5.12–6.4 fl oz    
  COMMENTS: For use on head lettuce only. Apply in a minimum of 20 gal water/acre by ground. Apply weekly or as needed with a maximum of 4 applications/ season. Reentry interval is 7 days after application, unless protective clothing is worn. Do not use if leafminers are present.
** Mix with enough water to provide complete coverage.
+ Restricted entry interval (R.E.I.) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (P.H.I.) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
* Permit required from county agricultural commissioner for purchase or use.
1 Rotate chemicals with a different mode-of-action Group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action Group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a Group number of 1B; chemicals with a 1B Group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a Group number other than 1B. Mode of action Group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee). For additional information, see their Web site at http://www.irac-online.org/.



[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Lettuce
UC ANR Publication 3450
Insects and Other Arthropods
E. T. Natwick, UC Cooperative Extension, Imperial County
Acknowledgment for contributions to Insects and Mites:
W. E. Chaney, UC Cooperative Extension, Monterey County
N. C. Toscano, Entomology, UC Riverside

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