High tunnel insect management can be challenging, and whiteflies (Figure 1) on tomatoes and other vegetable crops can be one of the more common challenges. While there are several species of whiteflies that we routinely find in high tunnels, silverleaf whitefly can be more difficult to manage than others.
Whiteflies damage plants in several ways:
- They remove plant sap, reducing the efficiency of the plant.
- Honey dew produced by whiteflies covers leaves, reducing photosynthesis and contaminating fruit (Figure 2).
- The silverleaf whitefly can transmit tomato yellow curl virus.
Prevention is the first and best tactic to manage whiteflies. Before starting a new crop in the high tunnel, be sure the tunnel is free of weeds and other plants. To eliminate white flies prior to starting a new crop, let the high tunnel freeze out in winter or seal it in summer so it heats up prior. Side wall curtains can be screened to exclude whiteflies moving into the high tunnel.
Whiteflies can also be managed through biological control. Minute stingless wasps target and kill whitefly nymphs. Encarsia formosa is used to manage the greenhouse whitefly and Eretmocerus eremicus (Figure 3) is commonly used to manage silverleaf whitefly. These are most effectively used when whiteflies are present but not at high levels. However, broad spectrum insecticides can interfere with biological control.
Managing whiteflies with insecticides is challenging. The table below lists recommended insecticides available for managing whiteflies in high tunnels and greenhouses. Producers must not only manage whiteflies, but also the potential for development of insecticide resistance and pre-harvest intervals close to or after harvest begins.
Recommended High Tunnel Insecticides for Whiteflies
Maximum usage per crop
|Admire Pro||4A||Adults and nymphs||6.7 fl oz|
|Assail 30 SG||4A||Adults and nymphs||16 oz|
|Closer SC||4C||Adults and nymphs||17 fl oz|
|Courier 40 Sc||16||Nymphs||2 applications|
|Knack 0.86 EC||7C||Nymphs||20 fl oz|
|Requiem 25 EC||UN||Adults and nymphs||10 applications|
|Rimon 0.83 EC||15||Nymphs||36 fl oz|
|Sivanto 1.67 SL||4D||Adults and nymphs||28 fl oz|
|Venom 70 SG||4A||Adults and nymphs||6 oz|
By Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist