People, Environment

Whiteflies, Irritating But Harmless

Whiteflies, Irritating But Harmless
Whiteflies, Irritating But Harmless

Residents of Tehran have had to deal with an unwelcome guest in the form of whiteflies for the past few years, particularly those who live or work in the Iranian capital’s central districts.

Some have voiced concern over the bug’s effects on human health, a concern aggravated by the bug’s exotic and unusual white color. However, experts say there is little to worry about.

“They damage plants, but besides irritating people they do little else in the way of harm to humans,” Ebrahim Azizkhani, an entomologist, told Borna News Agency.

Azizkhani admitted that whiteflies may cause breathing difficulties when they enter the mouth or nostrils, “but it’s nothing serious worth panicking over.”

Whiteflies are sap feeders that reduce the overall vigor of plants with their feeding.  As whitefly infestations become severe, they cause plants to yellow and lose their leaves prematurely.

They also produce large amounts of sticky, sugary honeydew, which in turn is colonized by black sooty mold, reducing the attractiveness and marketability of whitefly-infested crops.

The expert attributes the rise in whiteflies numbers in Tehran to global warming. Some have suggested that the bugs may have piggybacked to Tehran on imported ornamental plants.

Azizkhani said pesticides provide the best solution to the problem but warned that because whiteflies are found in densely-populated public spaces, studies must be done before pesticides are used on an extensive scale.