The aim of this study was to develop and optimize silverleaf bioassay, esterase analysis and PCR-based techniques to distinguish quickly and reliably biotype B of the whitefly, Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius), from Indian indigenous biotypes. Zucchini and squash readily develop silverleaf symptoms upon feeding by the B biotype, but they are not readily available in Indian markets. A local pumpkin variety ‘Big’ was, therefore, used in silverleaf assay, which developed symptoms similar to those on zucchini and squash and can be used reliably to detect B biotype. Analysis of non-specific esterases of B and the indigenous biotypes indicated both quantitative and qualitative differences in esterase patterns. Two high molecular weight bands were unique to B biotype and they occurred in abundance. These esterases were used to develop quick and field-based novel detection methods for differentiating B from the indigenous biotypes. Development of these simple and cost-effective protocols has wider application as they can be potentially used to identify other agricultural pests. Mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene sequences and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) polymorphisms, generated using the primer OpB11, were also found useful for detecting B. tabaci biotypes. A B biotype-specific RAPD band of 800 bp was sequenced, which was used to a develop sequence characterized amplified region (SCAR) marker. The SCAR marker involved the development of B biotype-specific primers that amplified 550 bp PCR products only from B biotype genomic DNA. Silverleaf assay, esterases, RAPDs or a SCAR marker were used in combination to analyse whitefly samples collected from selected locations in India, and it was found that any of these techniques can be used singly or in combination to detect B biotype reliably. The B biotype was found in southern parts of India but not in the north in 2004–06.