Viburnum whitefly

The evergreen shrub laurustinus, Viburnum tinus, can be affected by a small sap sucking insect known as the viburnum whitefly.

Viburnum whitefly

Viburnum whitefly

Quick facts

Common name Viburnum whitefly
Latin name Aleurotuba jelinekii
Plants affected Viburnum tinus and Arbutus spp.
Main symptoms Small white-winged insects on the foliage in summer, black and white scale -like pupae on underside of leaves in winter
Caused by A sap-sucking insect
Timing All year

What is viburnum whitefly?

Viburnum whitefly is a common sap-sucking insect found on the underside of the leaves on Viburnum tinus and sometimes on strawberry trees, Arbutus spp. This insect should not be confused with other species of whitefly such as  glasshouse whitefly which rarely affects these plants or cabbage whitefly which is only found on brassicas.

Symptoms

Check plants carefully for;

  • Small white-winged insects, about 1mm long, living on the underside of younger leaves in mid-summer
  • In winter, the insect is present as the overwintering scale stage. These are black, oval, scale-like objects that are 1mm long and encrusted with a white waxy powder
  • Heavily infested plants may develop sooty mould on the upper leaf surface where the insect’s sugary  honeydew excrement has accumulated

Control

Non-pesticide control

Light to moderate infestations can be tolerated and control should only be considered when plants are heavily infested and becoming soiled with sooty mould.

Pesticide control

  • If necessary, spray thoroughly in mid-summer when adult viburnum whitefly begin to appear
  • Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Ecofective Bug Killer), fatty acids (e.g. Solabiol Bug Free, Doff Greenfly & Blackfly Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Organic Pest & Disease Control, Bug Clear for Fruit and Veg) can give good control of cabbage whitefly. These pesticides have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep the insect in check. Plant oil and fatty acid products are less likely to affect larger insects such as ladybird adults
  • More persistent insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Pest Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available
  • Follow label instructions when using pesticides
  • Plants in flower should not be sprayed due the danger to pollinating insects
  • Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener

Download

Pesticides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)

Biology

Viburnum whitefly has one generation a year.

The adults emerge in mid-summer, when they deposit eggs on the underside of leaves near the shoot tips. These hatch into flat, oval whitish-green nymphs that suck sap from the lower leaf surface.

By autumn, the nymphs have reached the pupal stage, which is black and encrusted with a white waxy powder. Both adults and nymphs produce a sugary excrement, called honeydew, which makes the foliage sticky and can allow the growth of sooty moulds.


Gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Did you find the advice you needed?

RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

Join the RHS now

Get involved

We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.