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Publication #ENY-478

Recommendations for Management of Whiteflies, Whitefly-Transmitted Viruses, and Insecticide Resistance for Production of Cucurbit Crops in Florida1

Susan E. Webb, David J. Schuster, Phillip A. Stansly, Jane E. Polston, Scott Adkins, Carlye A. Baker, Pamela Roberts, Oscar E. Liburd, Teresia Nyoike, Eugene McAvoy, and Alicia Whidden2

Until recently, squash has been the only cucurbit crop seriously affected by the B biotype of the sweetpotato whitefly, Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) (also known as the silverleaf whitefly, B. argentifolii and most recently as Middle East Asia Minor 1 or MEAM 1), because of the silverleaf disorder induced by feeding of the immature stages (nymphs). However, three viruses transmitted by the whitefly have been identified in watermelon, muskmelon, and squash in Florida since 2004, making whitefly management a priority for most cucurbits.

Squash vein yellowing virus (SqVYV), an ipomovirus in the family Potyviridae (the same family that includes many of our aphid-transmitted viruses), was first identified from squash in Florida in 2005, but had been causing serious damage in watermelon crops as watermelon vine decline since at least 2003 (Adkins et al. 2007). Unlike aphids, which can acquire mosaic virus in a matter of seconds, just by tasting the plant, whiteflies must feed on the plant to acquire SqVYV, and the longer they feed (up to about 8 hours), the more efficiently they are able transmit the virus to a new plant. Whiteflies appear to retain the virus for less than a day after they move away from an infected plant, but SqVYV can still spread rapidly when whitefly populations are high. Watermelon plants are killed by the virus (Figure 1) and fruit often have necrotic areas (Figure 2), especially just under the rind. Early symptoms on watermelon include yellowing and downward curling of the new growth and yellowing and collapse of petioles (Figure 3). Squash plants develop yellowing along all the leaf veins (Figure 4) and are stunted if infected early. Symptoms are more severe on yellow squash, including green streaks on the fruit, than on zucchini. Butternut squash, pumpkin, and calabaza are also affected (all Cucurbita species). Cucumber and muskmelon (Cucumis species) are not very susceptible to the virus. So far, the only weed hosts known are restricted to the cucurbit family: balsam apple, creeping cucumber, and smellmelon (Adkins et al. 2008, 2009).

Figure 1. 

Watermelon plants killed by infection with SqVYV.

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Figure 2. 

Effects of infection with SqVYV on watermelon fruit. Note necrotic (brown) areas of rind.

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Figure 3. 

Early symptoms of infection with SqVYV in watermelon.

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Figure 4. 

Vein yellowing symptoms on yellow summer squash in the greenhouse.

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Cucurbit leaf crumple virus (CuLCrV) was first recognized in 1998 in the Imperial Valley of California. CuLCrV was found in northeast and north-central Florida in 2006 and spread rapidly to other parts of the state. It is a begomovirus in the family Geminiviridae, persistently transmitted by the whitefly. Once the whitefly acquires CuLCrV, it may transmit it for the rest of its life. The virus appears to be more damaging to squash than to cantaloupe and watermelon. Infected squash and melon plants show leaf crumpling, curling, mottling, and a thickening of leaves. The fruit of yellow squash plants develop green streaks. In watermelon, yellowing of leaves and crumpling can occur (Figure 5), although in California, watermelon and cantaloupe appear to recover from infection with little effect on yield (Hagen et al. 2008). All cucurbits are susceptible except for acorn and butternut squash and some melons, such as Galia, honeydew, casaba, and golden crenshaw. Recently, CuLCrV has been found infecting green beans, balsam apple, and smellmelon in Florida (Adkins and Turechek 2008; Adkins et al. 2008, 2009). Other weed hosts have not yet been identified. See for other photographs of symptoms in squash, watermelon, and snap bean.

Figure 5. 

CuLCrV in watermelon.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus (CYSDV) was originally reported from the Middle East and Spain. It was first found in the United States in Texas in 1999 and was widespread in the southwestern United States in the fall of 2006 (Brown et al. 2007; Kuo et al. 2007). CYSDV was found in Florida in 2007 (Polston et al. 2008). It is a crinivirus in the family Closteroviridae. It persists in the whitefly adult for up to 9 days, the longest time of any crinivirus (Wisler and Duffus 2001). It affects all cucurbit crops, causing reduced fruit size and sugar content. Symptoms resemble those of a nutritional deficiency or water stress; the most obvious symptoms are seen on older leaves. The first symptom is a yellow spotting of leaves (Figure 6). Then, leaves turn yellow between the leaf veins, which remain green—the opposite of what happens when squash are infected with SqVYV. Leaves roll downward and become brittle. It can take up to four weeks for symptoms to develop after infection, so it is easy to move the virus long distances in infected but symptomless transplants. Recently, CYSDV has been found infecting smellmelon and pigweed in Florida (Adkins et al. 2009; Webster et al. 2011).

Figure 6. 

CYSDV in watermelon.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

As of this writing, no cucurbit varieties resistant to these viruses are available. Managing the whitefly vector and weed hosts of the virus are the only options for reducing losses at this time. Whiteflies must feed on plants to acquire enough virus to transmit it, and this feeding period offers a window of opportunity to interrupt the transmission cycle with insecticides. Reducing the overall population by controlling the immature stages of the whitefly should also contribute to reduced spread. Insect resistance to insecticides is a serious problem in whitefly management with a number of products no longer highly effective for killing adult whiteflies. Additional insecticides that kill adult whiteflies quickly are in development, but resistance management needs to be a primary concern, both for existing and new products, if we are to be able to manage whitefly-transmitted viruses without resistant varieties. Cultural controls, as outlined below, are essential for a strong resistance management program.

Most of the following management recommendations are taken directly from the recommendations for managing Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV) and for delaying the development of resistance to insecticides in the whitefly vector (Stansly et al. 2014, Those sections not relevant to cucurbits have been deleted and some information has been added. The recommendations for tomatoes have evolved over several years and continue to be revised. We envision a similar process for the recommendations for cucurbits.

Crop Hygiene

Field hygiene should be a high priority and should be included as an integral part of the overall strategy for managing whitefly populations, incidence of whitefly-transmitted viruses, and insecticide resistance. These practices will help delay the initial whitefly infestation and delay the introduction of viruses into the crop.

Establish a minimum two-month crop free period during the summer, preferably from mid-June through mid-August or longer.

  • Delay planting new fall crops as long as possible and remove spring crops as early as possible to increase the summer crop-free period and avoid carryover of disease and pests to the fall crop.

  • Try to eliminate, as much as is practical, any cucurbit weeds (balsam apple, creeping cucumber, citron) that could serve as a source of viruses and whiteflies for the crop.

Separate fall and winter cucurbit crops in time and space.

  • Do not plant new crops near or adjacent to old, infested crops.

  • If the cucurbit crop is to be a double crop, especially following tomatoes, the previous or primary crop should be thoroughly destroyed to reduce the initial whitefly population.

Destroy the crop and existing whiteflies quickly and thoroughly.

  • Promptly and efficiently destroy all vegetable crops within 5 days of final harvest to maximally decrease whitefly numbers and sources of plant viruses.

  • Use a contact desiccant (burndown) herbicide in conjunction with a heavy application of oil (not less than 3 % emulsion) and a non-ionic adjuvant to destroy crop plants and to quickly kill whiteflies.

  • Time burndown sprays to avoid windy periods, especially when prevailing winds are blowing whiteflies toward adjacent plantings.

  • Destroy crops block by block as harvest is completed rather than waiting and destroying the entire field at one time.

Other Cultural Control Practices

Use proper pre-planting cultural practices to avoid introducing whiteflies or viruses into crops.

  • Grow and/or plant whitefly- and virus-free transplants.

  • Do not grow vegetable transplants and ornamental plants (i.e., hibiscus, poinsettia) at the same location, especially if bringing in plant materials from other areas of the US or outside the US.

  • If this is not possible, isolate vegetable transplants and ornamental plants from each other.

  • Do not work with or manipulate vegetable transplants and ornamental plants at the same time.

  • Avoid yellow clothing or implements which will attract whitefly adults as well as aphids.

  • Cover all vents and other openings with whitefly resistant screening (0.25 x 0.8 mm openings or less for passive ventilation, less for forced air ventilation). Use double doors with positive pressure. Cover roofs with ultraviolet light-absorbing films (UV-absorbing films), or UV-reflecting covers when feasible.

  • Covering the ground outside the greenhouse or planthouse, particularly adjacent to greenhouse cooling pads, with UV-reflective mulch can reduce entry of whiteflies, aphids, and thrips. See for this and other details of exclusion practices.

  • If possible, do not purchase transplants from areas where whitefly-transmitted viruses are common.

  • Use UV-reflective (aluminum) mulch on plantings that are historically most susceptible to whitefly infestation. Reflective mulches with a black strip (not metalized) down the center to allow the soil to warm will be less likely to delay growth for crops grown in cooler months. The effects of the mulch will be lost when plants cover the mulch.

  • No varieties resistant to the whitefly-transmitted viruses are available at this time.

Use proper post-planting practices.

  • Removal of the earliest plants with symptoms may be of some value, especially for reducing the spread of viruses when whitefly populations are low.

  • Manage weeds within crops to minimize interference with spraying and to eliminate weeds that can serve as whitefly and virus hosts.

Insecticidal Control Practices

  • Use a proper whitefly insecticide program to delay development of resistance to insecticides, particularly neonicotinoid insecticides. Read and follow the label; many insecticides have limits on the number of applications that can be made in a growing season.

  • On transplants in the production facility, apply a neonicotinoid one time, not more than seven days before planting. Do not use pymetrozine (Fulfill). It can be applied only twice during the season and currently is not approved for use on cucurbits in the planthouse.

  • Use soil applications of neonicotinoids at planting for longer season crops, such as watermelon, so that there is less chance of affecting bees pollinating the crop. Research on effects of low levels of neonicotinoids in pollen is being done, but we do not have specific recommendations yet.

    • For best control, use a neonicotinoid as a soil drench at transplanting/seeding, preferably in the transplant/establishment water. Soil applications of neonicotinoids through the drip irrigation system are generally inefficient and wasteful of product and thus not recommended.

    • In order to preserve the neonicotinoid-free period, do not use split applications of soil drenches of neonicotinoid insecticides (i.e., do not apply at transplanting and then again later).

  • If foliar applications of a neonicotinoid insecticide (dinotefuran, acetamiprid, and thiamethoxam are labeled for this use on cucurbits) are used instead of soil drenches at transplanting, foliar applications should be restricted to the period before flowering because of toxicity to bees. Do not exceed the maximum active ingredient per season according to the label.

Follow scouting recommendations when using a foliar neonicotinoid insecticide program. Switch to non-neonicotinoid insecticide classes after flowering begins, and do not use any neonicotinoid class insecticides for the remaining cropping period. The use of insect growth regulators (buprofezin, novaluron, pyriproxyfen) to control nymphs is one effective option.

  • Use selective rather than broad-spectrum control products when possible to conserve bees and natural enemies that enhance biological control. Bees are essential for production of cucurbit crops, and insecticides that are toxic to them should be avoided during flowering or applied in the evening when bees are not foraging.

  • Pymetrozine (Fulfill) has been shown to reduce virus transmission in greenhouse tomato studies. In greenhouse studies with cucurbits, pymetrozine reduced transmission of SqVYV effectively only if both the infected (source of virus) and uninfected plants were treated, so it will be of most value in preventing secondary spread in the field once virus is present in the crop. Note that it is not for use in greenhouses.

  • Do not apply insecticides on weeds on field perimeters. These applications can kill insect natural enemies and interfere with biological control.

Do unto your neighbor, as you would have them do unto you.

Look out for your neighbor's welfare.

This may be a strange or unwelcome concept in the highly competitive vegetable industry, but it is in your best interest to do just that. Growers need to remember that should the whiteflies develop full-blown resistance to insecticides, especially the neonicotinoids, it is not just the other guy who will be hurt—everybody will feel the pain!

Know what is going on in the neighbor's fields.

Growers should try to keep abreast of operations in upwind fields, especially harvesting and crop destruction, which both disturb the foliage and cause whitefly adults to fly. Many crops are hosts for whiteflies, and some of them can be infected by the same viruses that infect cucurbits (e.g., beans and CuLCrV).

For Additional Information

Adkins, S., S. E Webb, D. Achor, P. D. Roberts, and C. A. Baker. 2007. Identification and characterization of a novel whitefly-transmitted member of the family Potyviridae isolate from cucurbits in Florida. Phytopathology 97:145-154.

Adkins, S., S. E. Webb, C. A. Baker, and C. S. Kousik. 2008. Squash vein yellowing virus detection using nested polymerase chain reaction demonstrates that the cucurbit weed Momordica charantia is a reservoir host. Plant Dis. 92 1119-1123.

Adkins, S., C. G. Webster, C. A. Baker, R. Weaver, E. N. Rosskopf, and W. W. Turechek. 2009. Detection of three whitefly-transmitted viruses infecting the cucurbit weed Cucumis melo var. dudaim in Florida. Online. Plant Health Progress doi: 10.1094/PHP-2009-1118-01-BR.

Brown, J. K., J. C. Guerrero, M. Matheron, M. Olson, and A. M. Idris. 2007. Widespread outbreak of Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus in melon, squash, and watermelon crops in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. Plant Dis. 91: 773.

Hagen, C., M. R. Rojas, M. R. Sudarshana, B. Xoconostle-Cazares, E. T. Natwick, T. A Turini, and R. L. Gilbertson. 2008. Biology and molecular characterization of Cucurbit leaf crumple virus, an emergent cucurbit-infecting Begomovirus in the Imperial Valley of California. Plant Dis. 92: 781-793.

Hochmuth, R. C. and R. K. Sprenkel. 2008. Exclusion methods for managing greenhouse vegetable pests. (ENY-846). Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee) website

Kuo, Y. -W., M. R. Rojas, R. L. Gilbertson, and W. M. Wintermantel. 2007. First report of Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus in California and Arizona, in association with Cucurbit leaf crumple virus and Squash leaf curl virus. Plant Dis. 91: 330.

Polston, J. E., P. J. De Barro, and L. M. Boykin. 2014. Transmission specificities of plant viruses with the newly identified species of the Bemisia tabaci species complex. Pest Management Science 70: 1547-1552.

Polston, J. E., L. L. Hladky, F. Akad, and W. M. Wintermantel. 2008. First report of Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus in cucurbits in Florida. Plant Dis. 92: 1251.

Stansly, P. A., H. A. Smith, D. R. Seal, E. McAvoy J. E. Polston, P. R. Gilreath, and D. Schuster. 2014. Management of Whiteflies, Whitefly-Vectored Plant Virus, and Insecticide Resistance for Vegetable Production in Southern Florida. ENY-735. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Webb, S. E., F. Akad, T. W. Nyoike, O. E. Liburd, and J. E. Polston. 2013. Whitefly-transmitted Cucurbit leaf crumple virus in Florida. (ENY-477). Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Webster, C. G., C. S. Kousik, P. D. Roberts, E. N. Rosskopf, W. W. Turechek, and S. Adkins. 2011. Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus detected in pigweed in Florida. Plant Dis. 95:360.

Wisler, G. C. and J. E. Duffus. 2001. Transmission properties of whitefly-borne criniviruses and their impact on virus epidemiology. In: Virus-Insect-Plant Interactions, K.F. Harris, O.P. Smith and J.E. Duffus, (eds.), Academic Press, San Diego, CA, USA, pp 293-308.


Table 1. 

Information for selecting insecticides for whitefly management programs (Schuster et al. 2007, revised).

Common Name

Trade Name


Days to Harvest

Bee Toxicity

IRAC Classification



Many products

12-24, varies by product

0-7, varies by product

Highly toxic


Reportedly less effective now than previously; most effective as tank mixes. Whitefly no longer on labels as a target pest for most pyrethroids





Moderately toxic


Reduces adult feeding and virus transmission





Relatively non-toxic


Insect growth regulator kills nymphs; acts slowly; causes sterility and reduced egg hatch





Relatively non-toxic


Insect growth regulator kills nymphs; acts slowly





Relatively non-toxic


Insect growth regulator kills nymphs; acts slowly; causes sterility and reduced egg hatch





Relatively non-toxic


Effective against nymphs; kills adults slowly; induces sterility





Relatively non-toxic


Kills by contact; no residel; requires thorough coverage


Ultra-Fine Oil, JMS Stylet Oil, and others



Moderately toxic


Kills by contact; repels adults; requires thorough coverage,


Admire Pro, and generic imidacloprid products, Platinum, Actara, Venom, Assail, Belay


varies by product

Highly toxic (foliar), Assail moderately toxic


Systemic when applied as soil drench. Actara and Assail used as foliar spray only.

thiamethoxam, chlorantraniliprole

Voliam Flexi, Durivo


1, 30

Highly toxic


Mixture of For use when both whiteflies and worms or leafminers are present or expected. Voliam Flexi is for foliar application and Durivo for soil.

Buprofezin, flubendiamide




Relatively non-toxic


Use when both whiteflies and worms or leafminers are present

Beauveria bassiana

Mycotrol, BotaniGard



Relatively non-toxic


Fungal biocontrol agent; more effective in greenhouses


Azatin, Aza-Direct; Neemix, others

4-12, varies by product


Moderately toxic


Antifeedant; more effective in greenhouse; some activity at higher rates



This document is ENY-478, one of a series of the Entomology and Nematology Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date July 2011. Revised June 2015. Visit the EDIS website at


Susan E. Webb, associate professor, Entomology and Nematology Department; David J. Schuster, professor, Entomology and Nematology Department, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Philip A. Stansly, professor, Entomology and Nematology Department, Southwest Florida REC; Jane E. Polston, professor, Plant Pathology; Scott Adkins, virologist, USDA-ARS, Fort Pierce; Carlye A. Baker, virologist, FDACS, Gainesville; Pamela Roberts, professor, Plant Pathology Department, Southwest Florida REC; Oscar E. Liburd, professor, Entomology and Nematology; Teresia Nyoike, former graduate assistant, Entomology and Nematology; Eugene McAvoy, Extension agent IV, UF/IFAS Extension Hendry County; and Alicia Whidden, Extension agent III, UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.