• According to a recent study, exotic invasive whiteflies in India are causing direct and indirect yield losses in agriculture, horticulture and forestry crop plants.
  • Whiteflies are tiny, sap-sucking insects that may become abundant in vegetable and ornamental plantings, especially during warm weather. They excrete sticky honeydew and cause yellowing or death of leaves.

Important points:

  • The first reported invasive spiralling whitefly (Aleurodicus dispersus) is now distributed throughout India except Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Similarly, the rugose spiralling whitefly (Aleurodicus rugioperculatus) which was reported in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu in 2016 has now spread throughout the country including the islands of Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep.
  • Aleurodicus dispersus and Aleurodicus rugioperculatus have been reported on over 320 and 40 plant species, respectively.
  • Most of the whitefly species are native to the Caribbean islands or Central America.
  • The host range of all of the invasive whiteflies has been increasing due to their polyphagous nature (ability to feed on various kinds of food) and prolific breeding.
  • The increasing import of plants and increasing globalization and movement of people has aided the spread of different varieties and their subsequent growth into invasive species.


  • Whiteflies reduce the production yield and also damage crops. Approximately 1.35 lakh hectares of coconut and oil palm in India are affected by the rugose spiralling whitefly.
  • Other invasive whiteflies were also found to expand their host range on valuable plant species, especially coconut, banana, mango, sapota, guava, cashew, oil palm, and ornamental plants such as bottle palm, false bird of paradise, butterfly palm and important medicinal plants.
  • Whiteflies have been difficult to control by using available synthetic insecticides.
  • They are currently being controlled by naturally occurring insect predators, parasitoids (natural enemies of pests, provide biological control of pests in greenhouses and crop fields) and entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that can kill insects).
  • Entomopathogenic fungi specific to whiteflies are isolated, purified, grown in the lab or mass-produced and applied into the whitefly infested field in combination with the release of lab-reared potential predators and parasitoids.
  • They are not just environmentally friendly but also economically feasible.

Way Forward

Continuous monitoring of the occurrence of invasive species, their host plants and geographical expansion is needed, and if required, import of potential natural enemies for bio-control programmes can also be carried out.


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