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Whiteflies and Elections

Riley County Extension’s gardening column in the Mercury recently featured the control of what in Kansas had always been considered a minor pest. Agent Eyestone mentioned that the insect commonly called “whitefly” is usually considered a serious pest only in greenhouses and other artificial environments, not in outdoor flower beds and vegetable gardens.


But any local gardener will tell you that this summer’s infestation was anything but minor. The insect, seldom seen in Kansas flower beds and gardens twenty years ago, has now become an expected, annual plague. In my yard by City Park, by late July this summer one could not brush by the lilac bush, carrot patch or tomato vine without liberating a cloud of tiny white critters. The standard soap, oil or chemical pesticide spray applied to the beans has little effect when every other plant in the yard holds a massive whitefly population.

The intrusion of this pest into Kansas gardens is a minor consequence of our warming planet compared to the increasingly-common super-storms that devastate the southeast US, or the holocaust of massive wildfires that have turned ambient air in the Pacific Northwest into a breathing hazard. We have already passed the tipping point on climate change. There is now nothing we can do to prevent a home that is sold today on the Florida coast from being below sea level by the time the 30-year mortgage has been paid.

We can never return to a Kansas where whiteflies are pests only in greenhouses, or a California where earthquakes are the greatest danger to property and human health. But we have the opportunity to replace the Kansas senator who always voted as Big Oil directed him to do. We can replace the president who wipes out environmental protections and sells our public parks to polluters. We must put people into public office who will protect our grand-children’s’ world, not some big donor’s wallet.

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