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What is the Most Effective Treatment for Whitefly Infestations on Plants?

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Whiteflies are a group of closely related insect species whose larvae live on plants. Like aphids, they suck nutrients from the plant's circulatory system. What is the most effective method for fighting a whitefly infestation in your garden? This project has some ideas for you to try.


Areas of Science
Time Required
Long (2-4 weeks)
Plants with whitefly infestation for testing different treatments.
Material Availability
Readily available
Average ($50 - $100)
Adult supervision required. Follow manufacturers instructions for safe use of commercial whitefly treatments.

Andrew Olson, Ph.D., Science Buddies


This project is based on:


The objective of this project is to determine the most effective treatment for whitefly infestations on garden plants (e.g., Hibiscus, tomato, poinsettia, and others). Potential treatments for comparison include: soaps, oils, biopesticides, insect growth regulators, or insecticides. The different treatments are compared to each other and to a treatment of water alone.


Whiteflies (see pictures in Figure 1) are a group of related insect pests whose larvae, like aphids, get nutrients by sucking juices from plant leaves and stems. In addition to the primary damage they cause by depriving plants of vital nutrients, whiteflies can cause harm in other ways. They secrete relatively large quantities of honeydew, which encourages the growth of harmful fungus, and may also attract other harmful insects. Whiteflies can also transmit viruses which cause disease in plants.

Zoomed in photo of a bandedwinged whitefly on a leaf    Photo of two greenhouse whiteflies
Photo of two silverleaf whiteflies    Photo of two sweet potato whiteflies

Figure 1. Four different species of whitefly (clockwise from top left): bandedwinged whitefly, greenhouse whitefly, sweet potato whitefly, and silverleaf whitefly (Fasulo et al., 1995).

Whiteflies have predators, including some parasitic wasp species, and ladybugs. Using broad-spectrum insecticide treatments to try to control whiteflies can lead to killing off these predators, and to the development of insecticide resistance in the whiteflies that survive.

Biorational pesticides are more focused methods of chemical control that aim to manage the pest species with the minimum amount of disturbance to non-target species. Biorational pesticides for whitefly control include insecticidal soaps and oils, and insect growth regulators, which kill by delaying larval development.

In this project, you'll compare the effectiveness of different treatments for controlling whiteflies.

Terms and Concepts

To do this project, you should do research that enables you to understand the following terms and concepts:



Materials and Equipment

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Experimental Procedure

  1. Do your background research to make sure that you are knowledgeable about the terms, concepts, and questions above.
  2. As you learned when doing your background research, accurate identification of the particular whitefly species is important, since there are differences in control strategies. Use the ID Key webpages from the Whitefly Knowldedgebase, or seek help from a local greenhouse expert or county agricultural extension agent.
  3. Based on your background research, select 3–5 different treatments for testing.
  4. Before any treatments, take photographs and perform counts to determine the level of whitefly infestation. Record the results in your lab notebook.
  5. Clearly mark the different garden areas (or different branches of the same plant) for each treatment.
  6. Prepare and apply the different treatments according to the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to follow all safety instructions when spraying.
  7. Use a plain water spray as a negative control.
  8. Continue to perform whitefly counts and take photographs for each treatment area at regular intervals for two weeks. Record the results in your lab notebook.
  9. Make graphs of the whitefly counts vs. time for each of the treatment areas.
  10. Which treatment is most effective?
icon scientific method

Ask an Expert

Do you have specific questions about your science project? Our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.


  • Ladybugs (both adults and larvae) are natural predators of whitefly eggs and larvae. Can introduction of ladybugs control a whitefly infestation?
  • Compare the cost effectiveness of different treatments. Which one delivers the best results per dollar?
  • For a more advanced (and longer-term) project you could compare integrated pest management techniques vs. a single treatment. To do this, you would need multiple areas with similar infestations for testing (e.g., multiple fields, greenhouses, or your garden plus those of one or two friends).


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General citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "What is the Most Effective Treatment for Whitefly Infestations on Plants?" Science Buddies, 20 Nov. 2020, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Zoo_p047/zoology/whitefly-infestations-plant-treatment?from=Blog. Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2020, November 20). What is the Most Effective Treatment for Whitefly Infestations on Plants? Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Zoo_p047/zoology/whitefly-infestations-plant-treatment?from=Blog

Last edit date: 2020-11-20
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