Thrips are members of the order Thysanoptera. Even though they are tiny, the damage they bring to your plants can be pretty BIG. In this article, read and find out how to prevent thrips damage.
Photo Credit Thrips are tiny insects approximately the size of a sewing needle that feed on many plants worldwide.
If you see any thrips on your plants, regardless of how many or how few there are, you should take this as a severe warning and eliminate them as soon as possible.
Even humans are not safe from some species as they can bite and cause temporary, minor itching. Eliminating thrips from your plants’ environment before they cause damage is crucial if you want to save time and energy in the long run.
Thrips cause damage to plants by extracting sap from leaves using specialized mouthparts, which causes the leaves to turn yellow and wilt. Seedlings are a common target for their attacks because of their fragile nature and high nutritional content. Thrips not only cause damage to plants by feeding on them, but they also carry fungal and viral diseases from one plant to another. This occurs when they transfer the virus from one plant to another by sucking the sap from an infected plant.
However, you should not give up hope! In this post, we will walk you through the steps of identifying the damage caused by thrips and quickly putting a stop to it.
What Are Thrips?
Photo Credit Thrips are a type of insect that can frequently be seen on garden plants, fruit, and flowers.
Thrips are insects that are part of the phylum Arthropoda and the order Thysanoptera in the kingdom Animalia. Their cigar-shaped, slim bodies typically measure 1 mm or less in length. Because of their size, you ought to have a 20/20 vision to be able to spot them.
However, larger thrips measuring up to 14 millimeters in length have also been documented. There have been over 6000 different species of thrips described by experts. Only about 400 of these 6,000 species can be found in the Americas.
Most thrips species feed plants; however, a handful are predators. Due to a large number of species, thrips have a wide range of color variations. These colors range from translucent white or yellowish-white to black or dark brown.
Thrips are characterized by fringed wings and asymmetrical mouthparts. They are closely related to the order Hemiptera, which is composed of cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, assassin bugs, bed bugs, and shield bugs, among other insects.
Thrips are poor fliers because their feathery wings aren’t strong enough for traditional flying. Nonetheless, thrips have developed a clapping and flinging technique that allows them to take off in a spherical pattern.
In addition, the wind is the primary means by which they travel from one plant to another. Researchers in the field of entomology have found evidence that thrips have a role in pollinating the plants they feed on.
However, their main food source comprises plants that produce flowers and vegetables, where they consume delicate structures rich in nutrients. Therefore, it becomes imperative that you control them or get ready to face the music later.
The Life Cycle Of Thrips
Photo Credit The thrips life cycle consists of five stages: the egg, the larval stage, the prepupal stage, the pupal stage, and the adult stage.
It’s important to note that thrips can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Thrips that are asexual can breed without the involvement of any male thrips. The term for this phenomenon is “parthenogenesis.” However, in sexual reproduction, like many other insects, male thrips compete with one another for the chance to mate with a female thrip.
At the beginning of spring, female thrips begin the life cycle by laying tiny eggs that measure just around 0.2 mm in size. A few species of thrips make small incisions in plant tissue with their ovipositor (a specialized device through which these insects lay eggs) and release a single egg into each one. In contrast, some species of thrips lay their eggs alone or in small clusters on the undersides of plant leaves.
There is a strong correlation between temperature and the rate at which thrips eggs hatch. The eggs can hatch in as little as three days if the temperature is high enough. However, if the weather is particularly chilly, it could take as long as two weeks.
When the eggs hatch, the larvae are released, and these larvae, also known as nymphs, feed on the leaves of the plant to get nutrients. After reaching maturity, these larvae will crawl to the ground, where they will begin their pupal life.
When thrips are in the pupal stage of their development, they produce the buds that will become their wings as well as their genitals, which will later decide their sex when they mature into adults. Pupae develop into adult thrips, which can survive anywhere from 25 to 40 days, depending on the environmental conditions.
Thrips continue to be sexually active throughout their lives and can produce anywhere from eight to fifteen generations in a single year.
How Do Thrips Damage Your Plants?
Photo Credit The damage caused by thrips can seem like striations, silvery speckling, or little white patches on plants.
Thrips are capable of causing damage to plants both outside and indoors, as well as to crops of significant economic importance. These pests cause damage to the plant by feeding on the plant tissue, and the pollen and sap make up most of their diet.
They are able to cause damage to leaves and shoots as well because these plant parts are delicate and can be easily broken. During the process of penetrating the plant tissue, they inject their saliva, which includes toxins, into the plant cells.
These poisons are essential in rupturing the plant cells and releasing nutrients. The plant parts that have ruptured can be identified by their dark brown patches. Compared to other types of pests that eat on plants individually, thrips feed on the plant in groups, which causes far more harm to the plant.
Thrips Carry Viruses & Diseases
Additionally, thrips act as vectors for over 20 viruses that can cause plant diseases. These viruses can be transmitted from plant to plant by thrips. For example, thrips are responsible for the transmission of six distinct tospovirus strains.
The tomato spotted wilt virus stands out as the most dangerous of these pathogens. Even though the word “tomato” is part of the name, it does not simply impact tomatoes. More than 35 plant families are susceptible to infection from the tomato-spotted wilt virus.
When a plant is infected with tomato spotted wilt virus, the leaves begin to change color, curl, and eventually fall off the plant. The disease impacts not only the leaves but also the fruits. The virus causes the fruit to develop circular lumps and patches as it spreads.
The impatiens necrotic spot virus is yet another virus that thrips can pass on. Plants that have been infected will develop sunken patches on the leaves, which will eventually become either black or brown.
Thrips damage, whether from direct sucking or viral infection, can kill a plant if not treated in time. So, you must do something about it and do it as soon as possible!
How To Prevent Thrips In Your Garden?
Photo Credit Complete protection against thrips is extremely challenging. However, it is possible to reduce the population.
Thrips can be avoided by a variety of strategies, and it is much simpler to prevent them in the first place than it is to get rid of them later. The following is a list of some of the preventative measures against thrips that we would like to recommend.
Check Plants Before Buying
If you want to stop thrips from infesting your garden or indoor plants, doing so is probably the easiest way to do it. Make sure the plants are healthy at the nursery before you buy them and bring them home. Keep an eye out for telltale indicators of thrips damage, such as the drooping of leaves or the presence of little brown patches.
Try wiping the leaves with a white paper towel and look for thrips if you can find any. Even if you do not observe any thrips on the plants, the soil may still contain pupae that can develop into adult thrips after the plant has been moved into the living room. It is best to store the new plants in a different room for the first few days to prevent this from happening.
Reflective mulch is a reflective covering that reflects light and discourages insects from feeding on plants by making it more difficult for them to locate the plants.
Reflective mulches are quite successful at preventing thrips and, in some situations, delaying the invasion of thrips. Silver and gray are the best colors to use for reflecting mulches; however, white can also be helpful.
Mulches constructed of aluminum-metalized polyethylene films are commercially available and can be used for more than one growing season. Aluminum foil is another option, although it is more expensive and must be handled with greater caution.
Protecting your plants from thrips with row covers and other types of coverings with tiny mesh can also be very effective against thrips. Also, you must install row covers before the seedlings emerge because thrips preferentially feed on young seedlings.
This strategy is highly successful when used on smaller plants. However, you will need to remove the covers as the plants continue to develop to prevent them from becoming overheated and to ensure that they can grow without being hindered.
In addition, make sure that the coverings do not come into contact with the shoots of the plants that grow up straight since this could cause injury to the sensitive tips of the shoots.
Avoid Overwatering Your Plants
Photo Credit Thrips populations can increase through overwatering or using nitrogen fertilizer.
If you overwater your plants, they may become more prone to infestation from several pests, including thrips. When you overwater the plants, the soil becomes more saturated, which puts the plants under stress.
Also, thrips are attracted to damp environments, increasing the risk of infesting your plants. Moreover, stress affects the levels of water and ions in the plant body, as well as carbon allocation and photosynthesis inside plants, making plants more vulnerable to an invasion by thrips.
China clay has been demonstrated to be beneficial in combating the thrips infestation. It is also known as kaolin clay in some circles. Any local vendor who sells art clay can provide you with china clay. When applied to a plant, china clay creates a barrier that prevents the passage of the fragrance molecules that insects need to locate and attack the plant.
To produce a repellant out of china clay, you will need one tablespoon of dish detergent, one quart of china clay, three gallons of water, and a spray bottle. After thoroughly combining them in a large bowl, put the constituents into the spray bottle and spray it on your plants. Once a week, give your plants good spraying to prevent thrips and other pests.
Keep Your Garden Clean
The debris in your garden could be a place for pests, such as thrips, to conceal themselves. A heap of garbage can retain moisture and offer protection from the sun’s intense heat to these pests. It may also act as a breeding site for thrips, which can infest your plants. Therefore, make sure that your garden is kept clean and clear of dirt.
Gather the dead leaves and twigs that have landed on the ground, and place them all in the compost pile. Do not throw material that is already infested with thrips into the compost because doing so will cause the thrips to spread to other plants.
How Control Thrips On Your Plants?
Photo Credit Thrips can be easily controlled with sprays such as horticultural oil, natural pyrethrins, or insecticidal soaps.
There will be times when your efforts to avoid thrips invasion do not provide productive results, and thrips will be able to invade your plants successfully.
However, there is no need to be concerned! We have a variety of techniques that you can use to get rid of the thrips that are plaguing your plants.
The biological management method involves the introduction of predatory insects to plants in order to reduce pest populations. In the case of thrips, the predatory insects include species of predatory thrips themselves, such as banded-wing thrips, black hunter thrips, and six spotted thrips. In addition to predatory thrips, other insects like mites, green lacewings, and minute pirate bugs could also be used.
Small wasps can help keep thrips populations in check by feeding on thrips eggs. Be sure to keep your plants clean and remove any accumulated dust on them to encourage the populations of these beneficial insects. Avoid spraying your plants with powerful, long-lasting, and unselective pesticides, as doing so will harm the beneficial insects that are feeding on your plants.
Pruning is a common horticultural technique that involves cutting back or trimming a plant’s buds, roots, or branches to encourage growth in desired areas. In the event of a thrips infestation, you should prune and dispose of the affected areas of the plant.
However, you shouldn’t shear the plants or clip dense foliage into certain shapes because it will kill the plant. Also, pruning in this manner encourages the fresh growth of shoots, which are at a higher risk of harm from thrips since they are younger.
The best time to prune your plants varies from species to species. If you have Indian laurel figs in your garden, the best time of year to prune them is in the winter.
Also, thrips can overwinter in the damaged and rolled fig tree terminals, providing them with a place to hide. So, remove any terminals rolled or damaged on the trees to reduce the amount of damage caused by thrips the following summer. Similarly, if you have an avocado tree on your property, the best time to prune it is in January.
Photo Credit When thrips damage becomes intolerable, a chemical can reset the population.
Even though the damage caused by thrips can be rather unsightly, it does not always necessarily call for the use of chemical treatments in gardens or within homes. Another reason for avoiding the use of chemicals is that the harm caused by thrips won’t become visible until after the tissue has grown and expanded.
By that point, the thrips have typically disappeared, and the use of pesticides will not be able to repair the harm they caused. In addition, when plant viruses are involved, the infection spreads rapidly, and insecticides cannot control the situation anyway.
However, in certain circumstances, thrips have a propensity to remain on the wounded plant for longer. This can make applying insecticides necessary to prevent thrips from infesting other plants in your garden.
Pro Tip: Reading the label on the insecticide first will provide you with the most helpful information before you put it to use.
The following is a list of some of the insecticides that we would recommend for the management of thrips.
Contact insecticides are the type of insecticides that are sprayed directly on the plant. Because these insecticides do not leave any trace, it is believed that they are safe for pollinators, as well as people, pets, and the insect species that naturally control pests.
These insecticides include BioNeem, AzaMax, azadirachtin, insecticidal soaps, Bonide and Monetary Horticultural oils, and Green Oil Neem, which contains neem oil. You can keep applying these pesticides until thrips are eradicated.
If the contact insecticides described above cannot eradicate thrips from your plants, we suggest using spinosad insecticides.
These insecticides are more effective at eradicating thrips because they can remain active on the plant for up to a week and penetrate deeper into the plant tissue. Spinosad is produced when the bacterium Saccharopolyspora Spinosa is fermented. Spinosad, however, cannot be used on blooming plants since it kills insects that are helpful to the plant.
Pro Tip: Always start with applying insecticide to the soil to avoid tree injury. If the infestation is severe and you need quick results, only then go for injecting it directly into the trunk. Even then, it should be done with extreme care as it can damage the plant. Do not repeat injecting in the trunk more than once a year.
Compared to contact insecticides, systemic insecticides take longer to have their effect since they are administered to the soil. Their activity does not begin until after the plants’ roots have absorbed it. But, their effects are long-lasting. If, however, systemic insecticides are injected directly into the trunk of the plant, they can give quick control.
Neonicotinoids are an example of an insecticide that works on a systemic level to kill thrips. However, neonicotinoids can also cause moderate to severe harm to natural predators as well as pollinating insects. The severity of the damage varies depending on the product. That’s why it’s best to wait until after flowering to spray these insecticides.
It is also essential to take care of the nearby plants because they can absorb neonicotinoids if sprayed onto the soil. This might result in the death of natural pollinators if the plants are in flowering season. Some products that contain neonicotinoids are Safari Insecticide and Suspend SC
Insecticides To Stay Away From
Organophosphate acephate compositions pose a significant threat to natural predators and pollinators. They also change the soil’s natural environment to benefit spider mites, which can significantly harm plants. Furthermore, these insecticides are frequently washed away by precipitation and can harm aquatic life.
Check your plants on a regular basis for any unwanted guests, especially thrips. Even though this can come off as condescending, a lot of people who garden forget to check on their indoor plants. As soon as you notice a symptom, put it in isolation and continue to follow the procedures outlined above, and thrips will be gone!
Frequently Asked Questions
What gets rid of thrips?
Pyrethrin is an all-natural insecticide that is extracted from chrysanthemums, and it is effective against thrips. You will need to apply two coats of pyrethrin to the affected plants, with a gap of four days in between each treatment. Thrips, on the other hand, are tiny insects that are easily driven away by strong streams of water. So, to get rid of thrips on outdoor plants, you can spray them with water or use a hose.
What is the damage caused by thrips?
Damage caused by thrips can result in discoloration, distortion, premature drying, and the loss of buds, flowers, and leaves. A plant’s ability to grow may also be affected by feeding, which may result in the plant becoming stunted or dwarfed. Fruit that has been infested with the pest will be discolored, misshapen, and scabby.
What is the best pesticide for thrips?
According to the findings of a study that was conducted in 2018, spinetoram, spinosad, and chlorfenapyr are the insecticides that are the most effective in the management of both species of thrips. If you are looking for a product, the Botanigard ES Insecticide is a very useful and effective product that you can use against thrips in your indoor or outdoor plants.
What are the signs of thrips?
On plant tissues, the telltale signs of thrips damage include streaks, speckling that looks like silver, and little white patches. This is because thrips feed by sucking the plant cells off of several garden plants, flowers, and vegetables. When there is a heavy infestation, the leaves will have a brownish appearance, and the developing points may become twisted.
Are thrips hard to get rid of?
It isn’t easy to totally prevent thrips. Still, you can reduce their populations by cleaning up plant waste and not letting cut foliage, branches, and deadheaded flowers lie on the ground throughout the winter. Thrips can overwinter in these places.
Therefore, it is essential to remove and dispose of dead plant stalks as the winter draws near to prevent eggs from overwintering in them.
What naturally kills thrips?
If you notice thrips on your houseplants, give them a good washing. Neem oil is an all-natural pesticide that can be used to ward off soft-bodied insects like thrips. Natural insecticidal soaps derived from oils and fats found in plants are also excellent in reducing large populations of pest insects without harming the ones you want to keep around.
How fast do thrips spread?
When given the proper environment, thrips can rapidly reproduce in large numbers. In as little as two weeks, they can complete their entire life cycle, which includes developing from an egg to an adult. Fortunately, the lifespan of an adult is only around a month. However, more than one generation can be present at the same time.
Sources For Further Reading
Thrips Management Guidelines–UC IPM. (2022). Retrieved September 27, 2022, from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7429.html
Biology and Management of Thrips Affecting the Production Nursery and Landscape. (2022). Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C1158
Aphids, Mites, and Thrips – Gardening Solutions – University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (2022). Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/pests-and-diseases/pests/thrips.html
Schalau, J. Recognizing, and Managing Thrips. (2022). Backyard Gardener – Recognizing and Managing Thrips – May 22, 2019. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/archive/thrips2019.html
Thrips: Got Pests? : Board of Pesticides Control: Maine DACF. (2022). Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/gotpests/bugs/thrips.htm
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