Science briefs: New whitefly named as species
The whitefly that has caused more than $1 billion in crop damage nationwide now has a Latin scientific name, officially designating it as a distinct species. UC Riverside scientists who describe the species in the March 1994 issue of the Annals of the Entomological Society of America have named the silverleaf whitefly Bemisia argentifolii Bellows & Perring. Co-authors of the article are UCR entomologists Tom S. Bellows and Thomas M. Perring; Ray Gill, California Department of Food and Agriculture entomologist and taxonomist; and David Headrick, UCR postdoctoral entomologist.
Other entomologists have considered the silverleaf whitefly to be a strain of the sweetpotato whitefly, Bemisia tabaci (rather than a different species). However, in 1993, Perring's lab in collaboration with other UCR scientists identified the new whitefly as genetically distinct from the sweetpotato whitefly and found that the two whiteflies could not mate with each other. The research was published in the journal Science. Other scientists are conducting further research that may confirm or refute its designation as a species.
Identification of the silverleaf whitefly as a distinct species may lead researchers to its origin and natural enemies. Scientists are seeking environmentally and economically sound management strategies to control the prolific insect, which feeds on numerous crops. These include biological control, cultural practices, and efficient use of selective insecticides.
In California alone, the silverleaf whitefly has caused an estimated $350 million in crop damage since 1990 and has largely supplanted the sweetpotato whitefly.