Aleurodicus dispersus (spiralling whitefly)

The spiralling whitefly (Aleurodicus dispersus) is a major pest devouring agricultural crops as it spreads with extraordinary speed across the tropics.

Spiralling whitefly is not a fly but a true bug, a member of the order Hemiptera who all feed on liquid food via stylets, modified tubular mouthparts

Species detail

Moth-like adult Aleurodicus dispersus

Moth-like adults in waxy secretions on a leaf. © J Martin

Adult whiteflies resemble tiny moths, with four wings covered by a white dusting of mealy material that resembles the wing scales in butterflies and moths.

The common name spiralling whitefly arises from the adult females laying eggs in spirals of waxy material.

All whiteflies are phytophagous and the spiralling whitefly is highly polyphagous, feeding on many plant  species, in many plant families. The polyphagy of the spiralling whitefly is the major reason it is able to spread so quickly from one crop to another across the tropics. 

  • Moth-like adult Aleurodicus dispersus amongst waxy secretions on a leaf surface
    Habitat and distribution

    The distributional history of Aleurodicus dispersus is one of the most interesting factors about the insect. Learn about the spread of Aleurodicus dispersus from the 1950s to the present.

  • Photomicrograph of a single puparium in lateral view
    Biology

    Read about the strange life cycle of the spiralling whitefly.

  • Egg-laying waxy spirals
    Pest management

    Conservation of the spiralling whitefly is not high on the agenda. Find out about the management efforts in place to control this pesty insect and read why it is a good example of failed quarantine procedures.

  • Line drawing of the puparium of Aleurodicus dispersus
    References

    Find further reading material for Aleurodicus dispersus.

Images

Four puparia of spiralling whitefly

Four puparia of spiralling whitefly, having developed in undisturbed conditions, display their highly characteristic waxy secretions which can allow positive identification without recourse to a microscope. Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands.

© J Martin
Single puparium of Aleurodicus dispersus in lateral view

Photomicrograph of a single puparium of Aleurodicus dispersus in lateral view, showing curls and filaments of waxy secretions.

© J Martin
A moth-like Aleurodicus dispersus adult

A moth-like Aleurodicus dispersus adult amongst waxy secretions on a leaf surface. Esmeraldas, Ecuador.

© J Martin
Egg-laying waxy spirals of an Aleurodicus species

Egg-laying waxy spirals left by ovipositing female of an Aleurodicus species, Bermuda.

© Sam Fraser-Smith
Line drawing of Aleurodicus dispersus lifecycle

Line drawing, by Arthur Cushman, that accompanied the original description of the puparium of Aleurodicus dispersus.

About the author

Dr Jon Martin

Former Curator of Hemiptera, Department of Entomology.

Author comments

The spiralling whitefly has been chosen because of

  • its impressive ability to cause problems as a major pest of agricultural crops
  • the quite extraordinary speed with which it has conquered almost all warmer parts of the world, probably facilitated by mankind’s addiction to trade and travel
  • its spectacular ability to completely cover the lower surfaces of every leaf on a plant and, in exceptional cases, to kill it's host
  • its beauty at the final nymphal stage of development when viewed microscopically

Glossary

Polyphagy 

The ability of insect species to feed on a variety of plant species from many plant families.

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