Capsicum whitefly

Have you seen capsicum whitefly symptoms?

If you see whiteflies infesting the ornamental plant, geisha girl (Duranta repens) or golden dewdrop (Duranta erecta), report it. It could be capsicum whitefly.

Be on the lookout for capsicum whitefly and report signs to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Early detection and reporting are key elements in controlling this pest.

General information

Capsicum whitefly (Aleurothrixus trachoides) is able to feed on a wide range of plants, but prefers plants in the Solanaceae (tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant and chilli) and Convolvulaceae (morning glory) families. It is reported to be a pest of over 70 different horticultural crops worldwide.

Capsicum whitefly has been reported as an economic agricultural pest in the United States of America and India. Feeding damage caused by the whitefly causes stunted plant growth and reduced fruit production. It could pose a threat to a range of Australian horticultural industries.

Capsicum whitefly was detected on Boigu Island (part of the Torres Strait Islands) in 2018. The Torres Strait Islands are in the far northern biosecurity zone.  Movement restrictions are in place to prevent a number of different pests spreading from the Torres Strait to the Australian mainland.

Overview

Cause Capsicum whitefly (Aleurothrixus trachoides) (Back) is a small flying insect in the Order Hemiptera.
Other names Solanum whitefly, pepper whitefly
Description

Appearance

Capsicum whitefly has six life stages:

Adults

  • 1-2mm long, white in colour, covered with a white waxy layer.

Four Nymphal stages

  • First stage nymphs are flat, oval in shape and yellow in colour. They are slightly mobile but usually remain on the leaf on which they were laid.
  • Second to fourth stage nymphs are also attached to the leaf and gradually become covered in cottony white filaments.
  • At the end of their development, the colour of the fourth nymphal stage turns to black and they measure 0.8 mm in length.

Eggs

  • Laid on the underside of leaves.
  • Newly laid eggs are tiny and translucent, turning yellow to greyish-brown with maturation.
  • Oblong in shape.

Plant stage and plant parts affected

  • Capsicum whitefly can affect plants at any growth stage.
  • Adults prefer new shoots, but leaves, fruit, flowers and stems can also become infested.

Plant damage

As with other whitefly species, capsicum whitefly adults and nymphs pierce plants with their mouthparts to feed on sap. This damages and causes stress in the host plant.

The large amounts of white, sugary honeydew produced by adult and nymph feeding promotes the growth of sooty moulds (fungi).  Sooty moulds cover the leaves, reducing the plant’s ability to access sunlight and ability to photosynthesise, resulting in poor plant health.

What it can be confused with

Depending on the life stage, capsicum whitefly could be confused with other species of whitefly, including the greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum ), spiralling whitefly (Aleurodicus dispersus ), coconut whitely (Aleuroctarthrus destructor) and the silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) . These species also produce white, cottony filaments and the adult life stage looks very similar.

Some aphids and mealybugs also produce large quantities of honeydew when feeding, which may resemble the cottony and waxy filaments produced by capsicum whitefly.

Although similar looking to many other whiteflies, capsicum whitefly is the only whitefly known to heavily infest the ornamental plants, geisha girl and golden dewdrop.

Lifecycle

Like other whitefly species, the development of capsicum whiteflyinvolves six stages: the egg, four larval instars and the adult.

  • Eggs are laid on the underside of the host plant’s leaves in circular masses.
  • Eggs take an average of 8 days to hatch into first instar nymphs.
  • It then takes about 21 days for the nymphs to grow through the second, third and fourth nymph stages, before emerging as adults.
  • The total lifecycle of capsicum whitefly from egg to adult takes approximately 29 days.

Overseas, these whiteflies are usually most prevalent in late spring to early summer, with numbers naturally declining in cooler months.  In warmer climates they are likely to be present throughout the year.

Hosts (s)

Capsicum whitefly is polyphagous (meaning it feeds on a wide range of plants), infesting at least 33 plant families.

Solanaceous and Convolvulaceous plants are preferred hosts of capsicum whitefly; with the crops most affected: avocado, capsicum, celery, chilies, eggplant, rose, sweet potato, tomato and tobacco.

Ornamental species can also be infested by capsicum whitefly, with geisha girl(Duranta repens) andgolden dewdrop (Durantaerecta), preferred hosts in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Distribution

Capsicum whitefly is widely distributed in tropical areas throughout the world, including Central and South America, the Caribbean, the United States of America (California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Texas), Africa (Mozambique, Nigeria and Reunion), Oceania (Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam and Micronesia) and India.

Closer to Australia, capsicum whitefly has been observed in the Solomon Islands and on the south coast of Papua New Guinea. It was recently detected in Queensland, on Boigu island in the Torres Strait Islands.

How is it spread

This pest is most easily spread by people moving infested plant material, such as cut flowers, whole plants, and fruit and vegetables.

Adults can also fly short distances, and along with the nymphs, may be blown by the wind.

Capsicum whitefly is not known to be a vector of plant diseases.

Impacts

Queensland’s horticulture (fruits, nuts, vegetables and production of ornamental plants) is highly diverse and was estimated to be worth $4.5 billion in 2018.

Whiteflies are pests of a wide range of host plants. They can cause severe damage to crops, reduce yield and can disrupt domestic and international access to markets.

Backyard growers can also be affected by new whitefly infestations.

Prevention

Protect your farm from emergency plant pests

Understand good farm biosecurity

Visit the farm biosecurity website.

Monitoring and action

Regularly monitor common host plants, especially geisha girl and golden dewdrop for:

  • the small, white, winged adults at rest on host plant leaves or fluttering around like tiny moths when disturbed.
  • eggs and nymphs on the undersides of leaves.
  • large amounts of white, waxy material or sooty mould.

If you see whitefly adults infesting a golden dewdrop or geisha girl, report it. It could be capsicum whitefly.

Legal requirements

The Australian Government have established two zones in Torres Strait under the Australian Biosecurity Act 2015 – the Torres Strait Protected Zone and the Torres Strait Permanent Biosecurity Monitoring Zone .

These federal government arrangements prohibit the southward movement of fresh fruits and vegetables, soil, live plants, including cuttings, seedlings or plant products between the Torres Strait Protected Zone and the Torres Strait Permanent Biosecurity Monitoring Zone, and from any Torres Strait Island to mainland Australia without a permit from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.  These requirements will help to limit the spread of capsicum whitely in the region and to the Australian mainland.

Movements of machinery, vehicles or other goods south from the Torres Strait Protected Zone into the Torres Strait Permanent Biosecurity Monitoring Zone, or from either zone to mainland Australia are inspected to ensure freedom from soil or any plant or animal material.

If you suspect the presence of capsicum whitefly, report it to Biosecurity Queensland immediately on 13 25 23 or contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

If you think you have found capsicum whitefly, you must take all reasonable and practical steps under your control to minimise any associated risks. This is called a general biosecurity obligation  (GBO) under the Queensland Biosecurity Act 2014.

More Information

Capsicum Aleurotrachelus whitefly fact sheet
Customer Service Centre