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Shining spleenwort whitefly - Trialeurodes asplenii

By N A Martin (2017)

Classification

Phylum:
Arthropoda
Class:
Insecta
Order:
Hemiptera
Family:
Aleyrodidae
Scientific Name:
Trialeurodes asplenii (Maskell, 1890)
  • Adult shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae); note the adult on the right with the untidy edge to the wings with bits of white wax falling off.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae); note the adult on the right with the untidy edge to the wings with bits of white wax falling off. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Colonies of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae); note the typical white wax associated with established colonies.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Colonies of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae); note the typical white wax associated with established colonies. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Common Names

Shining spleenwort whitefly
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Synonyms

Aleurodes asplenii Maskell, 1890
Asterochiton asplenii (Maskell, 1890)

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Taxonomic Notes

At present only one species of whitefly living on ferns in New Zealand has been properly described and given a scientific name. This is Trialeurodes asplenii (Maskell 1890), which is found on shining spleenwort Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), its primary host and hounds tongue fern, Microsorum pustulatum (G. Forst.) Copel. (Polypodiaceae), a less favoured host plant. Whiteflies have been found on more than eight other species of fern. Those that been examined carefully all show distinct differences in appearance and biology from Trialeurodes asplenii indicating that there are several previously unknown species of fern whitefly in New Zealand. Important differences between these species include the presence or absence of pigmentation on the fourth instar (stage) larva and puparium, and the arrangement and appearance of wax filaments around the edge of the fourth instar larva and puparium and the presence or absence of wax filaments on the dorsal surface of the puparium. Most of these fern whitefly species appear to be found on only one species of fern and they all appear to be in the genus Trialeurodes.

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Biostatus and Distribution

This endemic whitefly is found throughout New Zealand on its main native fern host plant, shining spleenwort, Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae).

Conservation status: Widespread in native ecosystems including reserves in cities.

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Life Stages and Annual Cycle

Diagramme of the life cycle of the greenhouse whitefly, Trialeurodes vaporariorum (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Image: Based on figure 20 from Crop & Food Research Broadsheet 91 © Plant & Food Research
Diagramme of the life cycle of the greenhouse whitefly, Trialeurodes vaporariorum (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Image: Based on figure 20 from Crop & Food Research Broadsheet 91 © Plant & Food Research

Juvenile whiteflies are present all year, while adults are seen from spring to autumn. It is not known how long it takes from newly laid egg to adult whitefly and it is not known how many generations there are per year.

Shining spleenwort whitefly has the same life stages and lifecycle as the greenhouse whitefly, Trialeurodes vaporariorum. The adult whitefly is covered with white wax that appears mealy with bits of wax coming off onto plants on which it is feeding. The adults are about 1.5 mm long and a wing span of about 3 mm. When the adults emerge from the puparium the white body colour can be seen and wings are transparent, but soon the body and wings are covered with white wax. Adult males may be seen sitting alongside females prior to mating. The adult whitefly has two pairs of wings and three pairs of legs.

Eggs and Larvae
Adult females lay eggs on the underside fronds, both on new season and last season fronds. Eggs may be laid amongst an old colony of whitefly larvae. The elongate, oval eggs are laid on their side with a peg at one end that is inserted into the leaf. They are a pale tan colour and shiny. The larva that hatches from the egg is usually called a crawler. It has 3 pairs of legs and walks away from the egg and settles in a suitable feeding site, usually close to a leaf vein with phloem ducts (tubes that transmit nutrients from the leaf to other parts of the plant). There are four larval stages. The larvae grow by moulting, changing skin. The old skin splits on the upper, dorsal, side and the next larval stage pulls itself out and settles in the same place to feed. All larvae are transparent with a short wax fringe around the first, second and third instar (stage) larvae and a long wax fringe around the fourth instar larva.

Pupa
When the fourth stage, instar, larva reaches full size it has vertical sides and the long wax fringe that sticks out at an angle. The mature whitefly larva forms a pupa inside the larval skin, which is now called a puparium. When the adult is almost ready to emerge, red eyespots can be seen through the walls of the puparium. A T-shaped split occurs in the skin of the puparium and the adult pulls itself out. Its body and wings harden, and become covered in white wax.

Feeding and honeydew
Whitefly adults and larvae have piercing and sucking mouth parts. The long stylets, special shaped rods, are held in the rostrum. When it wishes to feed the whitefly moves the tip of the rostrum onto the surface of the plant leaf. The stylets are then gradually pushed into the plant and manoeuvred into the phloem, nutrient transport vessels of the plant. They suck the plant sap. Plant sap is high in sugars and low in other nutrients. Whitefly excrete excess sugary liquid, which is called honeydew. In the larvae the excess liquid is excreted into the vasiform orifice where it forms a droplet. When a droplet has formed, a tongue-like structure called the lingula flicks the droplet away from the larva. It can be flicked up to 2 centimetres away.

Honeydew makes the plant leaves sticky. Sometimes black ‘sooty mould’ fungi grow on the sticky surfaces.

  • Newly emerged adult shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the white body colour and transparent wings before they are covered with white wax.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Newly emerged adult shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the white body colour and transparent wings before they are covered with white wax. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Recently emerged adult shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the body and wings are partly covered with white wax, but it has not yet become mealy.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Recently emerged adult shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the body and wings are partly covered with white wax, but it has not yet become mealy. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), note the body and wings are partly covered with mealy, white wax.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), note the body and wings are partly covered with mealy, white wax. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Eggs of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Eggs of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Eggs and first instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Eggs and first instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • First instar (stage) larvae and an egg of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    First instar (stage) larvae and an egg of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae and puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and the long wax fringe of the puparia.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae and puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and the long wax fringe of the puparia. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae and puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the short wax fringe around the young larvae and the long wax fringe of the fourth instar larvae and puparia.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae and puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the short wax fringe around the young larvae and the long wax fringe of the fourth instar larvae and puparia. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Third stage larva of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the transparent body and narrow wax fringe.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Third stage larva of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the transparent body and narrow wax fringe. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Third and fourth stage (instar) larva of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the transparent body and the long wax fringe on fourth instar larvae.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Third and fourth stage (instar) larva of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the transparent body and the long wax fringe on fourth instar larvae. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Fourth stage larvae and puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the transparent fourth stage larvae with a long wax fringe and the white puparia with eye spots of the adult whitefly.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Fourth stage larvae and puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the transparent fourth stage larvae with a long wax fringe and the white puparia with eye spots of the adult whitefly. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae and puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and the long wax fringe of the puparia.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae and puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and the long wax fringe of the puparia. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Fourth stage (instar) larvae of Shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the white wax fringe.  Image: Birgit E Rhode © Landcare Research
    Fourth stage (instar) larvae of Shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the white wax fringe. Image: Birgit E Rhode © Landcare Research
  • Puparium of Shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the white wax fringe and straight sides of the puparium.  Image: Birgit E Rhode © Landcare Research
    Puparium of Shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the white wax fringe and straight sides of the puparium. Image: Birgit E Rhode © Landcare Research
  • Puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the T-shaped split in the skin of the empty puparium on the left, this is the exit hole of the adult.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae), note the T-shaped split in the skin of the empty puparium on the left, this is the exit hole of the adult. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Scanning electron micrograph of the vasiform orifice and lingula of the greenhouse whitefly, Trialeurodes vaporariorum (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). White scale bar = 0.1 mm.  Image: Paul Sutherland © Plant & Food Research
    Scanning electron micrograph of the vasiform orifice and lingula of the greenhouse whitefly, Trialeurodes vaporariorum (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). White scale bar = 0.1 mm. Image: Paul Sutherland © Plant & Food Research
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Recognition

Identification of adult and juvenile whiteflies requires specialist knowledge. However, the mass of white wax on the underside of fern fronds is sufficient to recognise the presence of this species of whitefly on its main host plant, Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae).

There are two species of whitefly on its other host plant, Microsorum pustulatum (G. Forst.) Copel. (Polypodiaceae). They can be distinguished with sharp eyes and with a 10xs hand lense (magnifying glass).

Trialeurodes asplenii
Adults: White and mealy, with lots of loose wax. Present most of the year
Eggs: Scattered, some in rings
Larvae: Transparent
Puparium: white, with long wax filaments

Trialeurodes species 1,
Adults: White, but little white loose wax. Present in spring and early summer
Eggs: Most eggs laid in rings
Larvae: Dark pigment present
Puparium: dark pigment, no long wax filaments

Whitefly associated with a mass of white wax on the underside of fronds may be seen on other species of ferns. These are currently regarded as distinct species, because of differences in adult behaviour and the appearance of live juveniles. The other New Zealand fern whiteflies do not have scientific names and need to be formally described.

  • Adult shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), note the body and wings are partly covered with mealy, white wax.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), note the body and wings are partly covered with mealy, white wax. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Eggs and puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (G. Forst.) Copel. (Polypodiaceae); note the scattered eggs and mass of white wax.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Eggs and puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (G. Forst.) Copel. (Polypodiaceae); note the scattered eggs and mass of white wax. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Juvenile shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum  (Polypodiaceae); note the translucent or white larvae with long wax fringe.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Juvenile shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (Polypodiaceae); note the translucent or white larvae with long wax fringe. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Fourth instar larvae and pupapria of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum  (Polypodiaceae); note the lack of pigment and the long wax fringe.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Fourth instar larvae and pupapria of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (Polypodiaceae); note the lack of pigment and the long wax fringe. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult Hounds tongue fern whitefly, Trialeurodes species 1 (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (Polypodiaceae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult Hounds tongue fern whitefly, Trialeurodes species 1 (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (Polypodiaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Eggs of Hounds tongue fern whitefly, Trialeurodes species 1 (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) laid in a circle on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum  (Polypodiaceae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Eggs of Hounds tongue fern whitefly, Trialeurodes species 1 (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) laid in a circle on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (Polypodiaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Rings of white eggshells and darkly pigmented larvae of Hounds tongue fern whitefly, Trialeurodes species 1 (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum  (Polypodiaceae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Rings of white eggshells and darkly pigmented larvae of Hounds tongue fern whitefly, Trialeurodes species 1 (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (Polypodiaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Pigmented puparia and newly emerged adult Hounds tongue fern whitefly, Trialeurodes species 1 (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum  (Polypodiaceae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Pigmented puparia and newly emerged adult Hounds tongue fern whitefly, Trialeurodes species 1 (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (Polypodiaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Natural Enemies

Several natural enemies have been found associated with shining spleenwort whitefly.

Pathogens
An unidentified white and red fungal pathogen was found infesting puparia.

Parasitoids
Adults of two species of tiny wasp (Hymenoptera) parasitoids have been reared from puparia of this whitefly. The adults of the species of wasp are either orange or brown. The female adult parasitoid lays an egg in a larval whitefly. The wasp larva grows in the living whitefly larva. It kills the whitefly larva when it is fully grown. The fully grown wasp larva pupates in the whitefly puparium. The pupa may appear dark inside the whitefly. When the adult wasp is ready to emerge, it makes a round hole in the whitefly puparium. The presence of these exit holes in puparia of the shining spleenwort whitefly is a useful sign that parasitoids have been active.

Predators
Only one predator has been found feeding on shining spleenwort whitefly in New Zealand. Both the larvae and adults of the Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Newman, 1838) (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae) feed on shining spleenwort whitefly larvae, puparia and adults.

  • Fungal pathogen infesting pupapria of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (G. Forst.) Copel. (Polypodiaceae); note the lack of pigment and the long wax fringe.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Fungal pathogen infesting pupapria of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (G. Forst.) Copel. (Polypodiaceae); note the lack of pigment and the long wax fringe. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), note the dark colour due to the presence of a parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), note the dark colour due to the presence of a parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), note the round exit hole of a parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), note the round exit hole of a parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Brown parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera) (right) of the shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), note the exit hole of a parasitoid wasp in the puparium on the left.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Brown parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera) (right) of the shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), note the exit hole of a parasitoid wasp in the puparium on the left. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Brown parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera) (top) of the shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) and pupa in whitefly puparium.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Brown parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera) (top) of the shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) and pupa in whitefly puparium. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of brown parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera) of the shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of brown parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera) of the shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Orange parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera) (right) of the shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Orange parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera) (right) of the shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of an orange parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera) of the shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of an orange parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera) of the shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Larva of Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), feeding on shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae).   Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), feeding on shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Larva of Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), feeding on shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae).   Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), feeding on shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Cocoon of Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), in a colony of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae).   Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Cocoon of Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), in a colony of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Pupa exposed in a cocoon of Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), in a colony of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae).   Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Pupa exposed in a cocoon of Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), in a colony of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), from a colony of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae).   Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Adult Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), from a colony of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), from a colony of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae).   Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Adult Australian variable lacewing, Drepanacra binocula (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), from a colony of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Host Plants

The shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii, breeds on two New Zealand ferns. Its main host is the endemic fern, Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae). A less common host plant is the Australasian fern Microsorum pustulatum (G. Forst.) Copel. (Polypodiaceae).

Adult and juvenile whitefly feed by inserting their stylets into the phloem, nutrient transport vessels of the plant. They suck the plant sap. Feeding by very large numbers of whitefly can debilitate the plant. Plant sap is high in sugars and low in other nutrients. Whiteflies excrete the excess sugary liquid, which is called honeydew. This makes the plant leaves sticky. Sometimes black ’sooty mould’ fungi grow on the sticky surfaces.

Table: Host plants of the Shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) from Plant-SyNZ database (10 June 2017). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (1-10, 10=high).
Common Name(s)Scientific NameFamilyReliability IndexBiostatus
Shining spleenwort, Huruhuruwhenua, Parenako, Paretao, Pānako, Paranako, Paretao, Urūru whenuaAsplenium oblongifolium ColensoAspleniaceae10endemic
Hounds tongue, Hound's tongue fern, Strap fern, kōwaowao, pāraharaha, kōwaowao, Maratata, Pāraha, pāraharaha, RaumangaMicrosorum pustulatum (G.Forst.) Copel.Polypodiaceae10indigenous, non-endemic
  • Colonies of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae); note the typical white wax associated with established colonies.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Colonies of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae); note the typical white wax associated with established colonies. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Juvenile shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae); the translucent or white puparia with long wax fringe. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Juvenile shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Asplenium oblongifolium (Aspleniaceae); the translucent or white puparia with long wax fringe. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Fourth instar larvae and pupapria of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum  (Polypodiaceae); note the lack of pigment and the long wax fringe.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Fourth instar larvae and pupapria of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (Polypodiaceae); note the lack of pigment and the long wax fringe. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Additional Information

Whitefly on New Zealand Ferns
At present only one species of whitefly living on ferns in New Zealand has been properly described and given a scientific name. This is Trialeurodes asplenii (Maskell 1890), which is found on shining spleenwort Asplenium oblongifolium Colenso (Aspleniaceae), its primary host and Hounds tongue fern, of Microsorum pustulatum (G. Forst.) Copel. (Polypodiaceae), a less favoured host plant. Whiteflies have been found on more than eight other species of fern. Those that have been examined carefully all show distinct differences in appearance and biology from Trialeurodes asplenii indicating that there are several previously unknown species of fern whitefly in New Zealand. Important differences between these species include the presence of absence of pigmentation on the fourth instar (stage) larva and puparium, and the arrangement and appearance of wax filaments around the edge of the fourth instar (stage) larva and puparium and the presence or absence of wax filaments on the dorsal surface of the puparium. Most of these fern whitefly each appear to be found only on one species of fern. All whitefly on other fern species appear to be in the genus Trialeurodes. At present these whitefly species have been given provisional, tag, names until they are formally described.

Why is there so much white wax?
The shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Maskell 1890), and other species of fern whitefly produces much white flocculent wax with which the colony of juveniles becomes coated. To the human eye this makes it much easier to find the colonies of juvenile whitefly. However, does it make it easier for predators and parasitoids to find, or is the white wax some kind of deterrent and warning colouration? Other insects with a scale stage also cover themselves with white wax. This suggests to me that it may be some kind of deterrent and warning. However, recent observations indicate that the wax may impede movement of some ladybird larvae.

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Information Sources

Dumbleton LJ 1957. The New Zealand Aleyrodidae (Hemiptera: Homoptera). Pacific Science 11: 141-161.

Martin NA 1999. Whitefly: Biology, identification and life cycle. Crop & Food Research, Broadsheet No. 91: 1-8.

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Acknowledgements

Rosa Henderson, Landcare Research, for identification of whitefly.

The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited (Plant & Food Research) for permission to use photographs.

Landcare Research New Zealand Limited (Landcare Research) for permission to use photographs.

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Other Images

  • Puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum  (Polypodiaceae), note the round exit hole of a brown parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Puparia of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) on the underside of a frond of Microsorum pustulatum (Polypodiaceae), note the round exit hole of a brown parasitoid wasp (Hymenoptera). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Eggs and first instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Eggs and first instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae and puparium of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae and puparium of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Puparia and second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Puparia and second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Puparia and second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Puparia and second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • 
Puparia and second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Puparia and second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Puparia and second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Puparia and second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Puparia and second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Puparia and second, third and fourth instar (stage) larvae of shining spleenwort whitefly, Trialeurodes asplenii (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae): note the wax fringe around the larvae and puparium. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Suggested Citation

Martin NA. 2017. Shining spleenwort whitefly - Trialeurodes asplenii. Interesting Insects and other Invertebrates. New Zealand Arthropod Factsheet Series Number 100. http://nzacfactsheets.landcareresearch.co.nz/Index.html. Date Accessed. ISSN 1179-643X.

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