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whiteflies on a leaf

Do Whiteflies Bite in South Florida? Here’s What to Know

Whiteflies are tiny, winged insects in the order Hemiptera, which also includes aphids, scale insects, and bed bugs.

As gardeners and plant enthusiasts encounter whiteflies, a common question arises: do whiteflies bite humans or animals?

While they are notorious for impacting plant health, the nature of their interaction with humans is less well known. Could these pests directly cause concern for people and their pets?

Keep reading to uncover the truth about whiteflies and their potential to bite.

Key Takeaways

  • Whiteflies are purely plant-feeding insects that do not bite humans. However, they are often mistaken for biting due to their presence on the skin and the visible damage they cause to plants.
  • Through their specialized mouthparts, whiteflies feed on the undersides of leaves by extracting sap, which is vital for their nutrition but harmful to plant health.
  • Indirect damage from whiteflies includes spreading plant diseases and attracting other pests like aphids and ants, exacerbating plant health issues.
  • Early signs of a whitefly infestation include visible adult whiteflies, a swarm of flying insects when disturbed, and a sticky honeydew residue that leads to sooty mold on plants.
  • Effective whitefly control involves natural methods like introducing beneficial insects and using sticky traps, chemical treatments, and professional pest management when severe infestations occur.

Can Whiteflies Harm Humans Through Biting?

Whiteflies are not known to harm humans through biting. As garden pests, they are plant-feeding insects that can cause damage to a variety of crops.

Misunderstandings about whiteflies often lead people to believe these insects can bite. Here are some reasons why someone might think they've been bitten:

  • Itching Sensation: People in infested areas might experience itching, mistaking it for insect bites.
  • Presence on Skin: Whiteflies may land on human skin, prompting a belief that a bite has occurred.
  • Observing Plant Damage: Witnessing the harmful effects on plants might lead to the assumption that whiteflies also bite humans.

To help clear the myth that they can bite humans, here are their specific traits and characteristics:

  • Size: Generally small (1-2 mm)
  • Feeding habits: Feed on plant sap, not blood
  • Mouthparts: Designed for piercing plants, not skin
  • Behavior: Attracted to plants, indifferent to humans

Their anatomy and behavior are exclusively adapted to plant feeding, which is why there’s no factual basis for the belief that whiteflies bite people.

How Do Whiteflies Feed on Plants?

Whiteflies primarily target the undersides of plant leaves with their specialized mouthparts to access the plant's nutrients.

The anatomy of the whitefly’s feeding apparatus allows them to exploit their host plants efficiently. Here’s how the process unfolds in steps:



Landing Position

Whiteflies land on the undersides of leaves, where they are less likely to be disturbed.

Deployment of Mouthparts

They deploy their mouthparts to puncture the leaf's surface.

Insertion of Feeding Tube

The insects then insert a tube-like structure to reach the phloem rich in sap.

Beginning of Sap Extraction

Once connected, whiteflies begin to suck out the sap as a primary food source, ingesting nutrients.

Excretion of Honeydew

Excess sap is excreted as honeydew, a sticky substance that can attract other pests and foster mold growth.

What Is the Impact of Whiteflies?

While whiteflies don't bite humans, their presence on plants can lead to several indirect issues requiring you to eliminate them.

Reduce Plant Health

Whiteflies feed on plant sap, which can significantly weaken the host plants. Signs of compromised plant health due to whitefly activity include:

  • Yellowing of leaves
  • Premature leaf drop
  • Stunted plant growth
  • Wilting

Whitefly nymphs and larvae, much like the adults, extract nutrients from the plants, exacerbating the damage.

Spread of Plant Diseases

These tiny pests are also vectors for various plant diseases, particularly viral illnesses that can devastate crops.

Common diseases transmitted by whiteflies include:



Impacted Plant Types

Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus

Yellowing leaves, stunted growth

Tomatoes and other Solanaceae

Cassava Mosaic Virus

Distorted leaf appearance

Cassava and related species

Bean Golden Mosaic Virus

Mottled leaves, reduced yields

Legumes like beans

Attract Other Pests

The sticky honeydew excreted by whiteflies can encourage the fertilization of sooty mold and draw in other pests that feed on it or the weakened plants.

Pests commonly attracted to whitefly activity include:

  • Aphids: Also feed on the sap and excrete honeydew.
  • Mealybugs: Like whiteflies, they weaken plants further by feeding on sap.
  • Ants: Drawn to the honeydew, they can protect whiteflies from their natural predators, allowing whitefly populations to thrive.

Signs of Whitefly Infestation

Detecting a whitefly infestation early is crucial for the health of plants. Here are some visual signs to watch for:

Visual Indicators


Tiny white bugs

Adult whiteflies can be seen as small, white, moth-like insects.

Cloud of flying insects

When disturbed, whiteflies often swarm in a cloud above infested plants.

Sticky residue

A sticky substance can accumulate on leaves and stems.

Sooty mold

Black, sooty mold may grow on the honeydew-coated surfaces.

Yellowing leaves

Infested plants often display yellowing leaves, which may drop prematurely.

White or yellowish pupae

Tiny, oblong pupae can be found on the underside of leaves.

Whitefly Control and Prevention

Effective whitefly problem management that targets all stages of their life cycle is crucial for getting rid of them.

Natural Methods

You can introduce beneficial insects and employ physical strategies to manage whiteflies using natural treatment ideas.

Here’s how you can incorporate them into ornamental plants, houseplants, and greenhouse habitats:

  1. Introduce Beneficial Insects: Introduce natural predators of whiteflies, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps, into the garden.

  2. Utilize Sticky Traps: Place yellow sticky traps near affected plants to monitor and reduce whitefly numbers.

  3. Apply Insecticidal Soap: Use insecticidal soap sprays to safely target whiteflies without harming beneficial critters.

  4. Cultivate a Repellent Habitat: Incorporate plants that naturally repel whiteflies, such as marigolds, into the garden space.

Chemical Solutions

Chemical treatments like pesticides, when used correctly, are a necessary component of comprehensive whitefly control. Consider these solutions:


Application Method

Insecticidal Soap

Spray directly onto the whiteflies on plant leaves, ensuring full coverage.


Apply as a systemic treatment via soil drench or as a foliar application.


Spray carefully onto plants, best used as a quick knockdown agent.

Growth Regulators

Apply as per label instructions to disrupt whitefly development.

Professional Pest Control Solutions

Professional whitefly control becomes crucial when whiteflies become a nuisance, infesting and damaging plants by laying eggs on them.

When hiring one, here are the things to expect:

  1. Inspection and Identification: Exterminators will start with a thorough inspection to identify the severity of the whitefly infestation and distinguish them from midges, gnats, black flies, and horse flies, which are often confused with each other in regions like Florida.

  2. Custom Treatment Plan: Based on the inspection, they will create a tailored treatment plan. The chosen strategy may involve using insecticides or biological controls suitable for tackling whiteflies.

  3. Implementation: They will treat the affected areas, focusing on plants where whiteflies are likely to lay eggs. They will apply treatments that do not harm the plants or the environment.

  4. Follow-up Services: They may offer follow-up services to ensure that the whiteflies have been effectively managed and to prevent a future infestation.

  5. Preventive Advice: After the treatment, they may advise you on preventing whiteflies from returning, including plant care tips and recommendations for physical barriers.

When to Seek Professional Help

Whiteflies are not known to bite humans or animals, but they can be a significant pest to plants. If plants are swiftly deteriorating despite standard home remedies, it might be time to contact a professional pest control company (like us at Native Pest Management).

As pest control professionals, we can assess the extent of the infestation, identify the specific whitefly species, and apply treatments that may be more effective or safer for the environment than over-the-counter products.