By Setareh Behroozi

Whiteflies all around: Who is displaced?

August 30, 2017

Walking on Tehran’s streets, you are getting surrounded by white mobile dots. At first, you may think that it is an illusion. But it is real; whiteflies, new inhabitants of the capital!

Media call them ‘uninvited guests’. Tehran, once famous for its fine weather and vast gardens, has turned into a sprawling city with grey sky and citizens with a passion for healthy life and better future.

This is the fourth year that trees along passersby in the capital host whiteflies. These little sucking insects turn up during summer when temperature increases.

The flies come from southern Iran, where they have long been a problem but they have moved north as the climate warmed, Ali Naderi, entomologist who has been studying the fly problem said in an interview with the New York Times last year. 

In his interview, he pointed to natural airflow blocked by rows of high-rises buildings in the city, as one of the factors which is great for existence whiteflies.

Whiteflies lay eggs in Tehran so each year emerge in warm season of the city and according to experts, a long cold winter can eradicate whiteflies in Tehran.

“The whiteflies find the environment pretty appealing now as their natural enemies which used to be highly effective as biological controls disappeared due to the use of pesticides in the city years ago,” the chief of Tehran’s Department of Environment said in May.

“The absence of their natural enemies that could keep the population under control, warm weather, and the availability of suitable host-plants in Tehran has soared these pests’ population,” Mohammad-Hossein Bazgir explained.

According the Health Ministry and the Universities of Medical Sciences, the whiteflies do not cause any serious problems to human health, however they could cause some level of discomfort as they might trigger allergic reactions, Bazgir added.

He went on to say that washing up host-plants, altering pruning techniques and collecting and burning up tree leaves have worked to some extent but they did not solve the problem thoroughly.

However, Tehran Municipality cope with this problem with yellow sticky traps on trees in central and southern Tehran are helpful for temporarily reduce whitefly populations.

Who is displaced?

Ladybugs, spiders, lacewing larvae, and dragonflies are a few of many beneficial insects that can control a whitefly population.

However such a natural lifecycle is not expected in a city like Tehran.

Like other metropolises, Tehran has been turned into a hub of consumption and a city of wastes and pollution.

Iran is not an exception in challenges other countries in the world are dealing with, especially regarding climate change and environmental protection. 

Tehran, like many other big cities, is ‘displaced’ with asphalt, concrete and high-rise buildings. This issue leads to transformation of nature.

In modern world, restraining the growth of megacities like Tehran is neither possible nor wise. Good urban planning and management considering ecological concerns would be a great step. 

Preservation of the ecological balance and the concept of ecological landscape planning would be a solution for all environmental problems citizens are grappling with.

SB/MG

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