A few days ago, Tim told me the beans weren’t looking so great. I thought they were probably water logged and didn’t go and check on them – we have had a lot or rain recently. However, I went out to have a look this morning and this is what I saw:

Bean trouble #1

Bean problems #2

damages leaves but new leaves coming through ok still

I still don’t know what caused it but on closer inspection today I did find these:

nasty whitefly

more whitefly

After checking my other plants, I realised that EVERYTHING has whitefly. The strawberry, the sage, the mint (especially the mint). I do have a yates soap spray but it had run out. And the supermarket didn’t have any – only the more toxic pyrethrum spray. While that is made from extract of the pyrethra daisy (I am pretty sure that is the right spelling) the packaging still says do not let pets eat it, wash your hands etc.

As the cats do try and eat our plants from time to time I didn’t want to risk it. So I got one of our spray bottles, filled it with water and a good squirt of Palmolive dishwashing liquid, and have dosed all the plants to the point of run off. Fingers crossed this will do the trick! If not, next time I might add some tea tree as I have heard that also works, or garlic. Also apparently cooking oil too but I only have an olive oil spray so couldn’t add that.

Will report back on how it goes!

Not really sure if it’s the whitefly but from what I have read (wikipedia!), they do attach themselves to the underside of the plant and feed by sucking out the good stuff and often introducing mould or other diseases:

“Whiteflies feed by tapping into the phloem of plants, introducing toxic saliva and decreasing the plants’ overall turgor pressure. Since whiteflies congregate in large numbers, susceptible plants can be quickly overwhelmed. Further harm is done by mold growth encouraged by the honeydew whiteflies secrete.”

I did notice that some of the damage to the leaves was on the veins of the plants,  which is consistent with the sap being sucked out and a toxin being injected:

Close up of leaf damage

close up of bean leaf damage, underneath of leaf

According to one website (below) honeydew mould contamination looks sooty… so do these pictures, don’t you think? I reckon it could be the honeydew mould from what I have read.  (

Am also going to plant some marigolds, have had the seeds for ages but forgot about them until I saw the whitefly today. Apparently they are a good companion plant for beans.

I found some really useful information from Green Harvest, an Australian organics website, about whitefly:

Whiteflies suffer from an identity crisis, as they are not flies at all, in appearance they resemble tiny, pure white “moths” but are in fact, closely related to sap-sucking aphids. Aphid cast-off skins could be mistaken for whitefly, but whitefly will quickly flutter up and fly away when disturbed, while the cast-off aphid skins will drop off. Just shake the plant to find out which you have! While there are about 20 species in Australia, the most serious pest is thegreenhouse whitefly Trialeurodes vaporariorum that attacks a very wide range of plants including tomatoes and beans. Unfortunately, whiteflies don’t go round in ones or twos – they go round in hordes, so a severe attack can have a major impact on a plant.

Whiteflies suck sap from the plant, resulting in a yellow mottling on the surface of the leaf, as well as leaf loss, wilting and stunting. Not only do they feed on plants, but they also produce honeydew, which spoils the plants’ appearance, attracts ants and black sooty mould. Whiteflies can also transmit plant viruses.

Adult whiteflies have a 3mm wingspan and are covered with a white, waxy coating. Each adult female lays about 200 eggs on the underside of the leaves, the eggs hatch in 8 days. Newly hatched ‘crawlers’ or ‘nymphs’ move around for a few days but then insert their feeding tube and lose their functional legs. At this stage they can be confused with scale.

Most species can complete a full life cycle in 20-30 days, less in summer. Whiteflies have no hibernation period and must have a suitable host all year. Severe winters reduce numbers considerably.


  • Natural enemies of whitefly include small birds, spiders, lacewings, hoverflies, ground beetles, mirid bugs and damsel bugs. The adults and larvae of some ladybirds also feed on whiteflies. Habitat, such as a border of perennial plants, needs to be available all year round as a refuge for these predators.

  • An important predator and parasitoid of whiteflies is the tiny wasp Encarsia formosa…. It is most likely to be effective inside glasshouses rather than outdoors, Encarsia wasps kill whitefly nymphs in one of two ways: they either lay an egg inside the nymph, providing food for their young, or they kill the nymph right away and feed on it. Once the whitefly nymphs are parasitised they turn black and no longer feed.

If you had clouds of whiteflies on your tomatoes or beans in the previous year, then acting early in the spring is your best bet to control this pest! Useful strategies include:

  • Vacuuming in the early morning when whiteflies are cold and slow moving can remove many of the adults before they have a chance to lay many eggs. After vacuuming, empty the vacuum bag into a plastic bag and put in the freezer for 24 hours.

  • Hang sticky yellow traps above the plants, at the beginning of the season 
    to detect an invasion early. Tapping the plants with a stick will cause the whitefly to fly up and onto the traps. Whiteflies are strongly attracted to the colour yellow, so you really shouldn’t wear yellow clothing around whiteflies or you may carry them from plant to plant.

  • Physical barriers such as floating row covers or mosquito netting work very well for early-season protection.

  • Handpick older leaves to remove young whitefly stages.

  • Avoid using a lot of nitrogen fertilizer, including manures, as succulent growth will increase whitefly populations. You may need to check your phosphorus and magnesium levels, as deficiencies in these are believed to contribute to whitefly infestations.

  • Try a high pressure hosing in the early morning, 3 days in a row.


Whiteflies began showing resistance to synthetic insecticides many years ago, and have since become a major problem in some crops and greenhouses. To control an infestation use a suitable organic spray as soon as adults are noticed, make sure you spray underneath the leaves:

  • Insecticidal soap sprays such as Natrasoap are a good choice of control for the home gardener; spray every 2-3 days for 2 weeks.
  • Spray Pest Oil or try making your own oil spray by mixing 1 tablespoon dishwashing liquid detergent with 1 cup of cooking oil; add 1 to 2.5 teaspoons of this solution to 1 cup of water, spray onto plants every 10 days.
  • Botanical insecticides such as garlic are useful. Research undertaken in NZ on neem’s effectiveness for whitefly found that it had a major impact by preventing the ‘nymph’ stage from developing into an adult; the nymphs tend to disappear from the treated plants.


Thanks Green Harvest – will be trying some of those tricks on my beans!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s