Neem Oil for Whitefly Control

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I’ve mentioned a few times my persistent issue with whitefly colonizing the underside of my pepper leaves.  For the past couple of months, I went out every weekend and spent a couple of hours gently brushing off whitefly residue and hoping they wouldn’t come back … in retrospect, this was stupid and a huge waste of time.

I finally read on the internets somewhere (some random message board, I think) that just spraying the hell out of the plants consistently with a neem oil solution would do the trick – I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a try … sure enough, it worked!

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For those who haven’t been following along, I have a small screened-in balcony where I house 2 tomato plants, 7 pepper plants, 2 basil bushes, 3 agaves, 1 cactus and an unruly little pot of parsley.  Needless to say, there is little room for re-arrangement, much less a quarantine area for affected plants.  The screen is nice for keeping away mosquitoes, but it also prevents helpful critters such as mantises and ladybugs from naturally controlling my whitefly issue.

The following method has worked for me and I wanted to pass it along in case others find it useful too!

Supplies:

  • spray bottle
  • neem oil (I purchased the only bottle available at my local hardware store, Bonide brand)
  • tap water

Directions:

  1. Mix neem oil and water in spray bottle (about 1 teaspoon per 32oz water), shake well to combine.
  2. Spray a few leaves with mixture and let it sit overnight, if plants are not visibly adversely affected by the spray within 24 hours, proceed to step 3.
  3. Plan to spray your plants in the early evening, when the temperatures cool a bit – I find that the whiteflies are all cozied up under their leaves by this time so you’ll have maximum impact – Also, spraying during the cooler hours will prevent your leaves from being burned by the oil during high sun in the middle of the day.
  4. Heavily spray each of the affected plants, focusing on the underside of the leaves (where most whiteflies reside) – Your plants should be literally dripping with the solution when you are finished.
  5. Repeat this evening spray session for 5-7 days straight (yes, every night) – You will see a rapid decline in their population within the first 3 days.
  6. Spray again every 7 days to keep them at bay.

This may not work for everyone, but it’s a fairly convenient method if you have a small garden in a localized space.  Maybe next year I’ll buy a few mantis eggs and raise some natural predators ;)

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