Viburnum whitefly

Viburnum tinus and Arbutus can be affected by a small sap sucking insect known as the viburnum whitefly.

Save to My scrapbook
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 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?

Whiteflies are sap sucking true bugs (Hemiptera) in the family Aleyrodidae.  The adults are typically white and fly up from host plants. There are around eight species found in Britain, some are restricted to a limited host range others are found indoors on a wide range of plants indoors.

Viburnum whitefly feeds 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.


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 affected plants may develop sooty mould on the upper leaf surface where the insect’s sugary honeydew excrement has accumulated


This insect can usually be accepted as part of the biodiversity that viburnum and Arbustus support, it rarely affects the health of its hosts.  

Check Viburnum tinus and Arbutus frequently from early summer onwards so if necessary action can be taken before a damaging infestation has developed. When choosing control options you can minimise harm to non-target animals by starting with the methods in the non-pesticide control section. If this is not sufficient to reduce the damage to acceptable levels then you may choose to use pesticides. Within this group the shorter persistence pesticides (that are usually certified for organic growing) are likely to be less damaging to non-target wildlife than those with longer persistence and/or systemic action.

Non-pesticide control

  • This whitefly rarely affects the growth or vigour of plants and so it can be tolerated
  • Encourage predators and other natural enemies of whitefly, in the garden, such as birds, ladybirds, wasps and ground beetles.


Pesticide control

The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.
  • Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer), fatty acids (e.g. Doff Greenfly & Blackfly Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Plant Guard Pest & Disease Control, Bug Clear for Fruit and Veg) can give good control of whitefly. These pesticides have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep sucker numbers in check. Plant oil and fatty acid products are less likely to affect larger insects such as ladybird adults
  • Plant invigorators combine nutrients to stimulate plant growth with surfactants or fatty acids that have a physical mode of action against aphids (e.g. Ecofective Bug Control, RHS Bug and Mildew Control, SB Plant Invigorator and Westland Resolva Natural Power Bug & Mildew). These products contain some synthetic ingredients and so are not considered organic
  • More persistent contact-action insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer, Provanto Sprayday Greenfly Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • A systemic containing the active ingredient Flupyradifurone (Provanto Smart Bug Killer) is available for use on ornamentals and selected edibles
  • 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 to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects.
Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by RHS Gardening Advice. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.


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


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

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

Advice from the RHS

You may also like

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.