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Bemisia tabaci (MEAM1) (silverleaf whitefly)


  • Last modified
  • 11 October 2017
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Vector of Plant Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Bemisia tabaci (MEAM1)
  • Preferred Common Name
  • silverleaf whitefly
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • The exact origin of the MEAM1 species of Bemisia tabaci, and the reasons why it became such an important pest are still not fully known. MEAM1 was first identified in the mid 1980s when it invaded the souther...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Bemisia tabaci (MEAM1) (Gennadius, 1889)

Preferred Common Name

  • silverleaf whitefly

Other Scientific Names

  • Bemisia argentifolii Bellows, Perring, Gill & Hendrick, 1994
  • Bemisia tabaci (B biotype)
  • Bemisia tabaci B
  • Bemisia tabaci Middle East Asia Minor 1 species
  • Middle East Asia Minor 1 (MEAM1) species (Bemisia tabaci)

International Common Names

  • English: poinsettia whitefly; tobacco whitefly, B biotype

EPPO code

  • BEMIAR (Bemisia argentifolii)

Summary of Invasiveness

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The exact origin of the MEAM1 species of Bemisia tabaci, and the reasons why it became such an important pest are still not fully known. MEAM1 was first identified in the mid 1980s when it invaded the southern states of North America. Vast numbers of whiteflies were found to be infesting winter vegetable crops and consequently caused an estimated $500 million loss to the 1991 winter harvest in California. Investigations led to the assumption that the B biotype had spread to the USA on ornamental plants that were being transported around the world. Species such as poinsettia and gerbera were highlighted as probable hosts. During the 1990s MEAM1 was reported on every continent. Biological traits of MEAM1 implied that it had evolved within intensive agricultural regions with exposure to pesticides and modern cultural practices. These included an ability to feed and develop on a wide range of plant and crop species, a high level of fecundity and a predisposition to develop resistance to a wide range of pesticides. MEAM1 is also an effective vector of many different plant viruses which, in conjunction with its high level of polyphagy, make it extremely problematic within agricultural regions where crops may be susceptible to viruses acquired from indigenous plants. Despite B. tabaci being a tropical/sub-tropical whitefly species, MEAM1 is often transported on plant species to temperate regions of the world. Within these cooler regions, MEAM1 can survive within a protected environment and could feasibly spread virus diseases to new locations. It is for this reason that B. tabaci and members of its species complex, including MEAM1, are on EPPO A2 Alert list.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Hemiptera
  •                         Suborder: Sternorrhyncha
  •                             Unknown: Aleyrodoidea
  •                                 Family: Aleyrodidae
  •                                     Genus: Bemisia
  •                                         Species: Bemisia tabaci (MEAM1)

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The silverleaf whitefly, formerly known as Bemisia tabaci biotype B, but now widely known as Middle East-Asia Minor 1 species was first identified as a new strain of B. tabaci when it appeared in the Americas during the mid-1980s (Brown et al., 1995a). It differed from the indigenous strain of B. tabaci by the ability of its larvae to induce a phytotoxic 'silverleaf' disorder of squash (Costa and Brown, 1991) and by its distinctive esterase profile (Bedford et al., 1993), although the latter feature is not infallible (Byrne et al., 1995). Until 1994, it was universally known as biotype B of B. tabaci. However, Bellows et al. (1994) described it as a separate species, naming it Bemisia argentifolii. This decision was a contentious issue between researchers and taxonomists worldwide, because the naming of the B biotype as B. argentifolii was based on a comparison with the indigenous American strain (the A biotype) and not between the many other biotypes that were being identified worldwide (Bedford et al., 1994a). A study by Rosell et al. (1997) which used SEM to examine the morphological characters documented by Bellows et al. (1994) for identifying B. argentifolii showed that most Old World populations of B. tabaci were morphologically indistinguishable from the B biotype. These Old World populations did not induce silverleaf disorders or produce similar esterase banding patterns to the B biotype. However, within the New World, the B biotype has been readily accepted as a new species, B. argentifolii. In 2005 the phylogenetic relationships between genotypes of B. tabaci were compared using ITS1 and CO1 nucleotide sequences. This identified six distinct 'races' throughout the world. The study concluded that there was insufficient data to raise races to species status, but supported the recognition of the six races as an unresolved core of ungrouped genotypes under the single Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) species name. As a consequence there is insufficient molecular and biological data to support the separation of B. tabaci and B. argentifolii as different species and this should now be discontinued (De Barro et al., 2005). Further research comparing mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase 1 (mtCO1) gene has demonstrated that, rather than one complex species, B. tabaci is a complex of 11 genetic groups. These genetic groups are composed of at least 34 morphologically indistinguishable species, which are merely separated by a minimum of 3.5% mtCOI nucleotide divergence (Dinsdale et al., 2010; De Barro et al., 2011; Boykin and De Barro, 2014). The decision is supported by many whitefly researchers worldwide and by the International Whitefly Symposium Network.


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Eggs are pear shaped with a pedicel spike at the base, approximately 0.2 mm long.


A flat, irregular oval shape, about 0.7 mm long, with an elongate, triangular vasiform orifice. On a smooth leaf the puparium lacks enlarged dorsal setae, but if the leaf is hairy, 2-8 long dorsal setae are present.


Adults are approximately 1 mm long, the male slightly smaller than the female. The body and both pairs of wings are covered with a powdery, waxy secretion, white to slightly yellowish in colour.


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MEAM1 species is fast establishing a global presence. However, certain areas within Europe are still MEAM1 free, e.g. Finland, Sweden, Republic of Ireland and the UK (Cuthbertson and Vänninen, 2015).

In Canada, MEAM1 is a glasshouse pest; it is not established outdoors (Broadbent et al., 1989; Howard et al., 1994; CFIA, Canada, 2005, per J.A. Garland).

See also CABI/EPPO (1998, No. 35).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


ChinaPresentEPPO, 2014
-FujianPresentHe et al., 2008
-HebeiPresentLin et al., 2006
-ShandongPresentEPPO, 2014
-XinjiangPresentMa et al., 2007
IndiaAbsent, invalid recordCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-GujaratPresentGupta et al., 2008
-KarnatakaPresentReddy et al., 2006; Shankarappa et al., 2006
-MaharashtraPresentGupta et al., 2008
IranPresentEPPO, 2014
IsraelPresentBedford et al., 1994a; Brown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014
JapanPresentBedford et al., 1994a; EPPO, 2014
-HonshuPresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
JordanPresentBrown et al., 1995a; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
Korea, Republic ofPresentEPPO, 2014
PakistanAbsent, unreliable recordCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
TaiwanPresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
TurkeyRestricted distributionEPPO, 2014
YemenWidespreadCABI/Bedford et al., 1994b; EPPO, 2014


EgyptPresentBrown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014
MauritiusPresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
RéunionWidespreadEPPO, 2014
South AfricaPresentBrown et al., 1995a; CABI/Bedford et al., 1994a; EPPO, 2014
-Canary IslandsPresentde Barro, 1995; Beitia et al., 1997; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
TunisiaRestricted distributionCABI/Chermiti et al., 1997; EPPO, 2014

North America

CanadaRestricted distributionde Barro, 1995; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-Nova ScotiaPresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
MexicoPresent1991Brown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014
USARestricted distributionCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-ArizonaPresentBrown et al., 1995a; CABI/Bedford et al., 1994a; EPPO, 2014
-CaliforniaWidespreadBrown et al., 1995a; CABI/Bedford et al., 1994a; EPPO, 2014
-FloridaWidespreadBrown et al., 1995a; CABI/Bedford et al., 1994a; EPPO, 2014
-GeorgiaPresentCABI/De Barro, 1995; EPPO, 2014
-HawaiiWidespreadBrown et al., 1995a; CABI/Costa et al., 1993; EPPO, 2014
-LouisianaPresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-MississippiPresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-New YorkRestricted distributionCABI/Brown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014
-South CarolinaPresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-TennesseePresentCABI/De Barro, 1995; EPPO, 2014
-TexasWidespreadCABI/Brown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentBedford et al., 1994a; Brown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014
BelizePresentBrown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014
Costa RicaPresentde Barro, 1995; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
CubaPresentEPPO, 2014
Dominican RepublicRestricted distributionde Barro, 1995; EPPO, 2014
GrenadaPresentde Barro, 1995; EPPO, 2014
GuadeloupePresentde Barro, 1995; EPPO, 2014
GuatemalaPresentBrown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014
HondurasPresentde Barro, 1995; EPPO, 2014
JamaicaAbsent, invalid recordCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
MartiniquePresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
NicaraguaPresent1991Brown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014
PanamaPresentBrown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentCABI/Brown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentde Barro, 1995; EPPO, 2014
Trinidad and TobagoPresentCABI/De Barro, 1995; EPPO, 2014

South America

BrazilRestricted distributionBrown et al., 1995a; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-BahiaWidespread1993CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-GoiasPresent1996CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-MaranhaoPresentEPPO, 2014
-Minas GeraisPresent1993CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-ParanaPresent1993CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-PernambucoPresent1993CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-Rio de JaneiroPresent1993CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-Rio Grande do NortePresent, few occurrencesSousa et al., 2007
-Sao PauloPresent1993CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
ColombiaPresent1997CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
VenezuelaPresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014


AustriaAbsent, invalid recordde Barro, 1995; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
CyprusWidespreadBedford et al., 1994a; Brown et al., 1995a; EPPO, 2014
DenmarkAbsent, intercepted onlyde Barro, 1995; Beitia et al., 1997; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
FranceRestricted distributionVillevielle & Lecoq, 1992; EPPO, 2014
GermanyAbsent, intercepted onlyVillevielle & Lecoq, 1992; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
GreecePresentPapayiannis et al., 2008; EPPO, 2014
ItalyRestricted distributionBeitia et al., 1997; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-SicilyPresentEPPO, 2014
NetherlandsWidespreadBeitia, 1997; de Barro, 1995; EPPO, 2014
NorwayPresent, few occurrencesCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
PolandPresent, few occurrencesde Barro, 1995; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
PortugalRestricted distributionCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
SpainPresent, few occurrencesCahill et al., 1996; Beitia et al., 1997; EPPO, 2014
UKEradicatedBartlett, 1992; Bedford et al., 1993; Cuthbertson, 2013; EPPO, 2014


American SamoaPresentde Barro et al., 1998; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
AustraliaRestricted distributionCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-Australian Northern TerritoryWidespreadGunning el al., 1997; de Barro, 1995; EPPO, 2014
-New South WalesWidespreadGunning el al., 1997; de Barro, 1995; EPPO, 2014
-QueenslandWidespreadCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-TasmaniaPresentGunning el al., 1997; de Barro, 1995; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
-Western AustraliaAbsent, intercepted onlyGunning el al., 1997; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
Cook IslandsPresentde Barro et al., 1998; EPPO, 2014
FijiPresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
French PolynesiaRestricted distributionde Barro et al., 1998; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
GuamPresentde Barro et al., 1998; EPPO, 2014
Marshall IslandsPresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
New CaledoniaPresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
New ZealandPresentde Barro et al., 1998; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
NiuePresentCABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentde Barro et al., 1998; CABI/EPPO, 1999; EPPO, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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The MEAM1 species  of B. tabaci was first reported as an invasive species within the USA in the mid-1980s (Costa and Brown, 1991). By 1990 it had spread throughout most of the southern states of the USA (Perring et al., 1993). By 1994, MEAM1 had also been reported from Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Japan, South Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East (Bedford et al., 1992, 1993, 1994a, c) and Australasia (De Barro, 1995). It was also being reported as interceptions and sporadic appearances within glasshouses in northern Europe and the UK (Bedford et al., 1993). In 2000 MEAM1 was appearing for the first time within South-East Asia (Simon et al., 2003; Rekha et al., 2005). It is assumed that all these introductions have been accidental.

Risk of Introduction

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The risk to the EPPO region is primarily to the glasshouse industry in northern countries, and mainly concerns MEAM1 species. Present legislation relates to B. tabaci, so reference to B. argentifolii should be avoided to prevent confusion in these areas. Since the recent introduction of this whitefly to several of these countries, the pest has proved particularly difficult to combat because of its polyphagy, its resistance to many insecticides and its disruption of biological control programmes (Prabhaker et al., 1985; Della Giustina et al., 1989; Mushtaq Ahmad et al., 2002). Furthermore, it is also a pest of field crops in other countries in the south of the EPPO region. However, initial fears that MEAM1 species may eventually displace other whiteflies on outdoor crops in southern Europe and cause much greater problems, have so far been unfounded.

Countries that already contain many begomoviruses that infect indigenous plants and weeds, and are associated with localized populations of B. tabaci that exhibit narrow host ranges may be particularly at risk from MEAM1. Should MEAM1 B. tabaci species become established in these countries its polyphagous feeding activities could enable viruses to move into new susceptible host plants, causing new crop protection problems.

Hosts/Species Affected

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MEAM1 B. tabaci species is documented as being polyphagous, having a host range of around 600 different plant species. This includes many glasshouse and field crops, as well as weeds. However, a study by De Courcy Williams et al. (1996) indicated that only a small number of individuals within a population can readily change host plants. It is the progeny of these particular individuals that lead to the species as a whole being highly polyphagous.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Abelmoschus esculentus (okra)MalvaceaeOther
Acer (maples)AceraceaeOther
Amaranthus (amaranth)AmaranthaceaeOther
AnacardiaceaeAnacardiaceaeWild host
AnnonaAnnonaceaeWild host
AraceaeAraceaeWild host
Aristolochia (dutchman's pipe)AristolochiaceaeWild host
Asclepias (Silkweed)AsclepiadaceaeWild host
Asteraceae (Plants of the daisy family)AsteraceaeWild host
BalsaminaceaeBalsaminaceaeWild host
BignoniaBignoniaceaeWild host
BixaBixaceaeWild host
BoraginaceaeBoraginaceaeWild host
Brassica oleracea var. botrytis (cauliflower)BrassicaceaeMain
Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensisBrassicaceaeOther
Brassicaceae (cruciferous crops)BrassicaceaeOther
CannabidaceaeCannabidaceaeWild host
CaprifoliaceaeCaprifoliaceaeWild host
Capsicum annuum (bell pepper)SolanaceaeMain
Carica papaya (pawpaw)CaricaceaeMain
CaryophyllaceaeCaryophyllaceaeWild host
Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle)ApocynaceaeOther
ChenopodiaceaeChenopodiaceaeWild host
CistaceaeCistaceaeWild host
ClusiaceaeClusiaceaeWild host
CommelinaceaeCommelinaceaeWild host
Convolvulaceae (Plants of the bindweed family)ConvolvulaceaeWild host
Cucurbita (pumpkin)CucurbitaceaeMain
EricaceaeEricaceaeWild host
Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia)EuphorbiaceaeMain
EuphorbiaceaeEuphorbiaceaeWild host
Fabaceae (leguminous plants)FabaceaeMain
FlacourtiaceaeFlacourtiaceaeWild host
Gossypium hirsutum (Bourbon cotton)MalvaceaeMain
GrossulariaceaeGrossulariaceaeWild host
Lactuca sativa (lettuce)AsteraceaeMain
LamiaceaeLamiaceaeWild host
MalvaceaeMalvaceaeWild host
Manihot esculenta (cassava)EuphorbiaceaeOther
Menispermum (moonseed)MenispermaceaeWild host
Mentha (mints)LamiaceaeOther
Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)SolanaceaeMain
NyctaginaceaeNyctaginaceaeWild host
Origanum majorana (sweet marjoram)LamiaceaeMain
Oxalis (wood sorrels)OxalidaceaeWild host
PedaliaceaePedaliaceaeWild host
PlantaginaceaePlantaginaceaeWild host
PolygonaceaePolygonaceaeWild host
Polyphagous (polyphagous)Main
PortulacaceaePortulacaceaeWild host
ProteaceaeProteaceaeWild host
PunicaceaePunicaceaeWild host
RanunculaceaeRanunculaceaeWild host
RhamnaceaeRhamnaceaeWild host
RutaceaeRutaceaeWild host
SalicaceaeSalicaceaeWild host
ScrophularialesWild host
Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)SolanaceaeMain
Solanum melongena (aubergine)SolanaceaeMain
SphenocleaceaeSphenocleaceaeWild host
ThymelaeaceaeThymelaeaceaeWild host
TiliaceaeTiliaceaeWild host
Umbelliferae (Plants of the parsley family)UmbelliferaeWild host
Verbena (vervain)VerbenaceaeWild host
ViolaceaeViolaceaeWild host

Growth Stages

Top of page Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage


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Early indication of infestation may consist of chlorotic spots caused by larval feeding, which may also be disfigured by honeydew and associated sooty moulds. Leaf curling, yellowing, mosaics or yellow-veining may also indicate the presence of whitefly-transmitted viruses. These symptoms are also observed in B. tabaci infestations, however phytotoxic responses such as a severe silvering of courgette and melon leaves, mis-ripening of tomato fruits, stem whitening of Brassica crops and yellow veining of some solanaceous plants are only caused by MEAM1 (Costa et al., 1993; Secker et al., 1998).

The feeding of adults and nymphs causes chlorotic spots to appear on the surface of the leaves. Depending on the level of infestation, these spots may coalesce until the whole of the leaf is yellow, apart from the area immediately around the veins. Such leaves are later shed. The honeydew produced by the feeding of the nymphs covers the underside of leaves and can cause a reduction in photosynthetic potential when colonized by moulds. Honeydew can also disfigure flowers and, in cotton, can cause problems in lint processing. Following heavy infestations, plant height, the number of internodes, and yield quality and quantity can be affected, for example, in cotton.

Phytotoxic responses in many plant and crop species caused by larval feeding include severe silvering of courgette leaves, white stems in pumpkin, white streaking in leafy Brassica crops, uneven ripening of tomato fruits, reduced growth, yellowing and stem blanching in lettuce and kai choy (Brassica campestris) and yellow veining in carrots and honeysuckle (Lonicera) (Bedford et al., 1994a,b).

A close observation of leaf undersides will show tiny, yellow to white larval scales. In severe infestations, when the plant is shaken, numerous small and white adult whiteflies will emerge in a cloud and quickly resettle. These symptoms do not appreciably differ from those of Trialeurodes vaporariorum, the glasshouse whitefly, which is common throughout Europe.

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType


abnormal colours
abnormal leaf fall
abnormal patterns
fungal growth
honeydew or sooty mould
necrotic areas
yellowed or dead
honeydew or sooty mould
early senescence

Biology and Ecology

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Eggs are usually laid in circular groups, on the underside of leaves, with the broad end touching the surface and the long axis perpendicular to the leaf. They are anchored by a pedicel which is inserted into a fine slit made by the female in plant tissue, and not into stomata as is the case with many other members of the Aleyrodidae. Eggs are whitish in colour when first laid, but gradually turn brown. Hatching occurs after 5-9 days at 30°C but this depends very much on host species, temperature and humidity.

On hatching, the first instar, or 'crawler', is flat, oval and scale-like in shape. The first instar is the only larval stage of this whitefly which is mobile. It moves from the egg site to a suitable feeding location on the lower surface of the leaf, after which its legs are lost in the next moult and the larva becomes sessile. It does not move again throughout the remaining nymphal stages. The first three nymphal stages last 2-4 days each, according to temperature. The fourth nymphal stage is termed the puparium, and is approximately 0.7 mm long. True pupation within the whitefly life-cycle does not occur, although the last (fourth) nymphal instar is typically referred to as a pupa after apolysis has been completed. Metamorphosis to adult occurs over about 6 days.

The adult emerges through a 'T'-shaped rupture in the skin of the puparium and spreads its wings for several minutes before beginning to powder itself with a waxy secretion from glands on the abdomen. Copulation begins 12-20 hours after emergence and takes place several times throughout the life of the adult. The life span of the female can extend to 60 days. The life of the male is generally much shorter, being between 9 and 17 days. Each female can oviposit over 300 eggs during her lifetime, these are often arranged in an arc around the female as she rotates on her stylet. Some 11 to 15 generations can occur within 1 year.

Virus Transmission

MEAM 1 species  is the vector of over 60 plant viruses in the genera Geminivirus, Closterovirus, Nepovirus, Carlavirus, Potyvirus and a rod-shaped DNA virus (Markham et al., 1994). Whitefly-transmitted geminiviruses, now designated Begomoviruses (Mayo and Pringle, 1998), are the most important of these agriculturally, causing yield losses to crops of between 20 and 100% (Brown and Bird, 1992; Cathrin and Ghanim, 2014). Begomoviruses cause a range of different symptoms which include yellow mosaics, yellow veining, leaf curling, stunting and vein thickening. Mansoor et al. (1993) reported that 1 million hectares of cotton were decimated in Pakistan by Cotton leaf curl virus (CLCuV) and important African subsistence crops such as cassava are affected by begomoviruses such as African cassava mosaic virus (ACMV) (see datasheet on African cassava mosaic disease). Tomato crops throughout the world are particularly susceptible to many different begomoviruses, and in most cases exhibit yellow leaf curl symptoms. This has caused their initial characterization as Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV). A number of different species of TYCLV have now been recorded from within both the New World and Old World where MEAM1occur (Jones, 2003). MEAM1 has also been associated with transmission of several other begomoviruses such as Tomato mottle virus (EPPO, 1996), Tobacco leaf curl virus (TLCV), Sida golden mosaic virus (SiGMV), Squash leaf curl virus (SLCV), Cotton leaf crumple virus (CLCV), Bean golden mosaic virus (BGMV) and Cotton leaf curl virus (Simon et al., 2003), some of which cause heavy yield losses in their respective hosts. Dual infections have also been shown to occur (Bedford et al., 1994c).

Although MEAM1 B. tabaci is not responsible for many of the begomovirus epidemics within Africa and Asia, it is now present on these continents and it is able to acquire and transmit these viruses (Bedford et al., 1994a). Its ability to feed on many different host plants enables whitefly-transmitted viruses to infect new plant species. This could cause greater problems to the agriculture in these areas as has already been demonstrated in the Americas.

Europe has five known begomoviruses, two of which have been shown to be no longer transmissible by B. tabaci and in particular MEAM1, Tobacco leaf curl virus (TLCV) (also known as Honeysuckle yellow vein mosaic virus (HYVMV)), Ipomea yellow vein virus and Abutilon mosaic virus (AbMV), possibly through many years of vegetative propagation of their ornamental hosts (Jones 2003; Bedford et al., 1994a). The others are two different transmissible tomato yellow leaf curl viruses that are causing major crop losses within the tomato industries of Spain, Portugal and Italy (Moriones et al., 1993; Louro et al., 1996). Indigenous weed species have also been shown as field reservoirs for one of these tomato viruses (Bedford et al., 1998) and may be the source of others yet to be identified within Europe. A closterovirus, Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus (CYSDV) and an Ipomovirus, Cucumber vein yellowing virus (CVYV) transmitted by B. tabaci (including MEAM1), are also causing severe damage to cucumbers and melons in Spain and around the Mediterranean basin (Celix et al., 1996; Jones, 2003). 

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Amitus bennetti Parasite
Aschersonia aleyrodes Pathogen Nymphs
Beauveria bassiana Pathogen
Ceraeochrysa cubana Predator
Chrysoperla carnea Predator
Chrysoperla rufilabris Predator Texas
Delphastus pusillus Predator
Encarsia formosa Parasite
Encarsia nigricephala Parasite
Encarsia pergandiella Parasite
Encarsia strenua Parasite
Encarsia transvena Parasite
Eretmocerus eremicus Parasite
Eretmocerus mundus Parasite
Eretmocerus orientalis Parasite
Isaria poprawskii Pathogen Cabanillas et al., 2013
Lecanicillium muscarium Pathogen Cuthbertson and Walters, 2005; Cuthbertson et al., 2005a; Cuthbertson et al., 2005b UK Tomato, Verbena
Nephaspis oculata Predator
Paecilomyces fumosoroseus Pathogen
Steinernema carpocapsae Pathogen Larvae Cuthbertson et al., 2007a UK Tomato, Verbena
Steinernema feltiae Pathogen Larvae Cuthbertson et al., 2003a; Cuthbertson et al., 2007b UK Tomato, Verbena

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Natural enemies of whiteflies will, in most cases, have co-evolved with their prey and may, in some regions, be more efficient at controlling their native prey than an introduced one. Since the origin of MEAM1 B. tabaci species is still unknown, its specific natural enemies have not yet been identified. However, it appears that most, if not all the natural enemies listed for B. tabaci, should attack MEAM1, although this has not been fully investigated.

Various species of predatory mites have also been shown to be effective in feeding upon Mediterranean species of B. tabaci populations, including Amblyseius limonicus, A. swirskii and Transeius montdorensis (Cuthbertson, 2014). No doubt they will also feed on MEAM1 species. A large range of natural enemies of B. tabaci have been recorded in China (Li et al., 2011). Their specificity to individual members of the B. tabaci species complex is unknown.

Entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi have been shown to offer much potential in controlling what has now been determined as MEAM1 species Bemisia populations (Cuthbertson et al., 2003a, 2005a, 2007a, b; Cuthbertson and Walters, 2005).


Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Adults do not fly very efficiently, but once airborne, can be transported long distances by convection or by wind. The greater dispersive capacity of MEAM1 B. tabaci has been instrumental in its greater economic importance. All stages of this whitefly are likely to be transported within the international trade of ornamental plants and cut flowers. The international trade in poinsettia and gerbera has played a significant role in the dispersal of MEAM1 (Cuthbertson, 2013) to all continents.

Natural dispersal

As with other species of whitefly and biotypes of B. tabaci, MEAM1 can easily disperse over short distances. This dispersal can occur in vast numbers when host plants become heavily infested and begin to senesce. Large 'clouds' comprising many millions of individuals have been recorded leaving a dying host crop. Dispersal is almost certainly assisted by wind.

Agricultural practices

Physical movement of infested plants, whether it be through plant care, harvesting or spraying, can result in adult MEAM1 dispersal from an infested plant.

Movement in trade

Any susceptible plant or crop, where leafy material is produced for distribution and export can act as a means of dispersing MEAM1. Seasonal plants such as poinsettia, bedding plants, grafted crop plants and cut flowers are all potential means for MEAM1 distribution. However, this usually involves dispersal of whitefly larvae and pupae rather than adults.

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx adults; pupae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Leaves adults; pupae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants eggs; larvae Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches adults; pupae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Fruits (inc. pods)
Growing medium accompanying plants
True seeds (inc. grain)

Wood Packaging

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Wood Packaging not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Loose wood packing material
Processed or treated wood
Solid wood packing material with bark
Solid wood packing material without bark

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) None
Crop production None
Environment (generally) None
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health None
Livestock production None
Native fauna None
Native flora None
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None


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MEAM1 species of B. tabaci can have a serious impact on the production of certain field crops as well as a wide range of protected horticultural crops. In the majority of cases, this is due to viruses that the whitefly transmits between susceptible crops or acquires from indigenous host reservoirs. MEAM1 is also able to induce a phytotoxic response from a number of plant species that could cause yield loss or reduced quality produce. This includes squash silver leaf (Bedford et al., 1994b), pumpkin white stem (Costa and Brown, 1991), white streaking of cole crops (Brown et al., 1992), reduced growth and stem blanching of kai choy (Costa et al., 1993) and uneven ripening of tomato (Maynard and Cantliffe, 1989). All of these can affect the yield and quality of a crop and thus its market value. In 1991, MEAM1 alone caused an estimated $500 million loss to the 1991 winter harvest in California, USA, mainly through virus damage. However, in other areas of the world where MEAM1 has appeared, it is found alongside an indigenous non-B biotype, so it is extremely difficult to determine specific economic damage. For example, MEAM1 is found alongside the K biotype in Pakistan where both biotypes transmit a disease of cotton, Cotton leaf curl virus. Around 2 million tonnes of cotton are grown in Pakistan and between 30 and 40% crop losses can be expected through whitefly-transmitted viruses based on figures in the mid-1990s. An estimate of 2.4 billion dollars damage was caused by the virus between 1993 and 1994 (Bhatti and Soomro 1996). In 1994, the cotton virus spread to India as did a whitefly-transmitted virus of tomato, Tomato leaf curl virus (Colvin et al., 2002), which caused a number of complete crop failures. This tomato virus was then reported to have spread to potato (Gard et al., 2001). Again MEAM1 was present within the epidemics although indigenous biotypes G, H and I were also recorded from India, so specific damage attributed to MEAM1 alone, could not be calculated.

Within Israel around the Mediterranean Basin, North Africa and on the Canary Islands MEAM1 is present alongside the indigenous Mediterranean (MED) species (formerly known as biotype Q). As seen in Pakistan, it is impossible to calculate the economic impact of MEAM1 alone in these areas. The economic impact of more recent appearances of MEAM1 within Africa, South and Central America and Australasia currently remains unknown. 

Environmental Impact

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The appearance of MEAM1 within new areas is, in most cases, the result of movement of infested plant material. The movement and establishment of MEAM1 populations through this route brings along the possibility of insecticide resistance genes. This invariably leads to an increase in the use of insecticides as whitefly control becomes increasingly more difficult. This in turn can produce an ever increasing spiral in the levels of insecticide resistance and insecticide use, having a direct impact on the environment.

Detection and Inspection

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Numerous chlorotic spots develop on the leaves of affected plants, which may also be disfigured by honeydew and associated sooty moulds. Leaf curling, yellowing, mosaics or yellow veining could indicate the presence of whitefly-transmitted viruses, and phytotoxic responses such as a severe silvering of courgette and melon leaves indicate the presence of the B biotype, the immature stages being mainly responsible for this symptom (Costa et al., 1993). Other phytotoxic responses to the B biotype include mis-ripening of tomato fruits (Maynard and Cantliffe, 1989), white streaking of Brassica leaves (Brown et al., 1992) and yellow veining of some solanaceous plants (Bedford et al., 1998).

Close observation of the undersides of the leaves will show the tiny, yellow/white larval scales and in severe infestations, when the plant is shaken, numerous small white adult whiteflies will flutter out and quickly resettle.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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B. tabaci is now widely regarded to be a multi-species complex consisting of as many as 34 species that are morphologically indistinguishable from each other. They can, however, be distinguished molecularly (De Barro et al., 2011; Boykin and De Barro, 2014).

Differentiation of MEAM1 from other whitefly species on the basis of adult morphology is often difficult, although close observation of adult eye morphology may often show differences in ommatidial arrangements between some species. At rest, MEAM1 species has wings more closely pressed to the body than Trialeurodes vaporariorum, which is a larger whitefly and more triangular in appearance.

The fourth instar or puparium can also be used to distinguish MEAM1 from T. vaporariorum as a glasshouse pest. T. vaporariorum is 'pork-pie shaped', regularly ovoid, has straight sides (viewed laterally) resulting from the vertical wax pallisade surrounding each puparium, and in most instances, 12 large setae. MEAM1 species  has an irregular 'pancake-like' oval shape, oblique sides and shorter, finer setae. Although the number of enlarged setae in the B biotype and wax rods in T. vaporariorum can vary according to host plant morphology, the two caudal setae are always stout and nearly always as long as the vasiform orifice in the B biotype. The length of caudal setae can be used to distinguish some Bemisia species.

For more information on the identification of B. tabaci from slide-mounted pupae, see Martin (1987).

Prevention and Control

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Cultural Control

Intercropping practices using non-hosts have been used in many countries aiming to reduce numbers of whiteflies on specific crops. However, intercropping with susceptible crops can promote whitefly populations, by offering a greater leaf area for feeding.

Weed species can play an important role in harbouring whiteflies between crop plantings and attention should be paid to removing these in advance of planting susceptible crops. Weeds also often harbour whitefly-transmitted viruses (Bedford et al., 1998) and may be a major source of crop virus epidemics, especially where MEAM1 species is present, due to its polyphagous nature.

Cultural control is generally much more effective where whiteflies are physical pests rather than virus vectors.

Host-Plant Resistance

The development of transgenic resistant plant and crop species through genetic engineering must be considered and accepted as a future method of control where whitefly-transmitted viruses are already endemic and causing severe crop losses (Wilson, 1993; Raman and Altman, 1994). Traditional sources of resistance have been used successfully for the control of other whitefly species.

Chemical Control

The following active ingredients have been reported as effective in controlling MEAM1 species worldwide: bifenthrin, buprofezin, imidacloprid, fenpropathrin, amitraz, fenoxycarb, deltamethrin, azadirachtin, pymetrozine.

MEAM1  has been documented as being able to exhibit resistance to all groups of pesticide that have been developed for its control (Cahill et al., 1994, 1995; Mushtaq Ahmad et al., 2002). A rotation of insecticides that offer no cross-resistance must therefore be used to control infestations.

A new group of environmentally safer insecticides that effectively kill whitefly by a physical mode of action are appearing on the market in many countries. These products do not have a specific active ingredient, but appear to utilise surfactant-like properties to overcome the protective waxes on whitefly larvae and adults.


The increased fecundity and polyphagous habit of MEAM1 species has exacerbated many control problems in field and glasshouse crops worldwide, compounded by insecticide resistance. It appears that no single control treatment can be used on a long-term basis against this pest, and that approaches should be integrated to achieve an effective level of control.

IPM appears to offer the best option for controlling MEAM1 infestations without causing contamination of the environment. Beneficial insects are used alongside chemicals that offer a high level of selectivity, such as insect growth regulators. However, if whitefly-transmitted viruses are present, it is unlikely that the threshold of whitefly vectors would ever be reduced to a level where virus transmission would cease by using these methods, because MEAM1 is such an efficient viral vector. Plant and crop species that exhibit a high level of resistance to both vector and virus must also be considered when designing an IPM system.

Entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi have been shown to be successfully tank-mixed with several chemical products for use in eradication programmes against what has now been deemed as MEAM1 species in the UK (Cuthbertson et al., 2003b, 2005b, 2007b).

Phytosanitary Measures

In countries where MEAM 1 species is not already present, the enforcement of strict phytosanitary regulations as required for B. tabaci, may help to reduce the risk of this whitefly becoming established (Cuthbertson and Vänninen, 2015).

Because of the difficulty of detecting low levels of infestation in consignments, it is best to ensure that the place of production is free from the pest (OEPP/EPPO, 1990). Particular attention is needed for consignments from countries where certain B. tabaci-listed viruses, now on the EPPO A1 or A2 quarantine lists, are present. These viruses are also transmitted by MEAM1.


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