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White Fly (hibernaculum)


Photo © by Mike Plagens

These resting stages for whiteflies were photographed in my Phoenix, Arizona backyard on leaves of Callaeum macropterum (Mascagnia). The white spots with the black centers are hibernacula.

Aleyrodidae -- Whitefly Family

Whiteflies are mostly sessile for their entire lives. A durable casing called a hibernacula covers these resting whiteflies where they are cemented to the undersurface of evergreen leaves through the winter months. In spring the adults lay eggs that settle onto plants like cotton and lantana where they are again immobile beneath a thin waxy layer. From this position they suck leaf sap through strawlike stylettes. They are not flies at all, but rather true bugs belonging to the order Homoptera.

There are many species of whiteflies; identifying one species from another usually involves careful microscopic examination together with expertise. Even cottonfields may have several species going. Vast acreage of cotton in the Sonoran Desert matures in the autumn with a great migration of whiteflies into urban and desert areas. So numerous at times as to appear like snow flurries. The abundance varies a lot from year to year depending on many factors such as weather, parasitie levels and spraying programs for other pests.

Populations of whiteflies are normally kept in check by minute parasitic wasps especially in the genus Encarsia.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2008