What are whiteflies? Tiny insects are swarming over parts of UK

The tiny white flies are swarming in parts of the UKThe tiny white flies are swarming in parts of the UK
The tiny white flies are swarming in parts of the UK | Alexey Protasov - stock.adobe.co

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The creatures are out in force across the country at the moment

Tiny white flies have been spotted swarming in their thousands over some parts of England. The creatures, which measure less than one millimetre in length, seem to fly directly in people’s faces, causing some to fear they’ve swallowed them.

Other people have mistaken them for ash, blossom or even snowfall.

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What are whiteflies?

In fact, the creatures, simply called whitefly, are out in force all over the UK at the moment, particularly during sunny weather. They are a relative of the sap-sucking aphid (greenfly) and though they love feeding off plants, they seem to be attracted to shiny cars and people’s coats.

Whiteflies are completely harmless to people but can be a pest in gardens, where they will gorge on the underside of leaves, with a particular preference for cabbages and other types of brassicas. It is thought that the hot weather the UK briefly saw this autumn created the perfect breeding conditions for them.

The good news, according to the Royal Horticultural Society, is that the glut of bugs creates a source of food for other food chain enhancing insects, such as ladybirds, lacewings, wasps and spiders, that all help control pests.

But in warm climates and particularly in greenhouses, whiteflies present major problems in crop protection. They can also excrete a sticky substance (honeydew), which allows the growth of “sooty moulds,” say experts. There are around eight species of whitefly found in Britain.

To get rid of whitefly try washing plants with a mixture of either washing-up liquid and water, or vinegar and water.