The tobacco whitefly is not a fly, but a louse related to aphids. It is originally a subtropical species, native to India and Pakistan. Like many other forms of life, it has benefited from globalization. She has traveled the world for decades, especially with ornamental flowers and leafy vegetables that are moved great distances between growers and buyers – which is very unsustainable. During the 1980s she also found herself in Belgium and the Netherlands.
The animal is a nightmare for greenhouse growers. It parasitizes over five hundred plant species, including tomatoes, cucumbers, and begonias. Tobacco whitefly is said to have been introduced to us via ornamental plants such as Chinese rose and poinsettia. It’s a utopia to assume that we’ll ever get them completely under control, especially since critters can fly very well. Locally limiting the damage seems to be the most feasible. Tobacco yellow-white whiteflies are barely a millimeter long.
The main problem is that the tobacco whitefly carries more than a hundred viral species, which can be found in its host plant and cause disease. Insects are able to escape the defense mechanisms of a plant. They use exceptional tactics. The trade journal Cell reported the discovery of a scientific first: an insect that extracted a gene from a plant in order to escape the plant’s resistance to its presence. It is the gene that protects a plant against its own poison. The insect has also acquired resistance to plant poison.
Research has shown that disabling the gene makes whiteflies more vulnerable to plant poison, which offers a prospect for the development of an effective pesticide. Tobacco whiteflies have also developed resistance to chemical pesticides. Growers are now mainly focusing on biological control with predatory bugs and parasitic wasps in their greenhouses, which attack aphids. However, they do not control more than one population.
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