Thrips Identification, Damage, and Management



What Do Thrips Look Like?

Identification. Most adult thrips are about .04 inches long, are slender with two pair of fringed wings, and range in color from translucent white to black depending on species and life stage.

Not all thrips are pests. Some species are beneficial feeding on mites and other harmful insects. Other species feed on fungal spores and pollen.

The common thrips that are agricultural pests are from the order Thysanoptera .

How Long Do Thrips Live?

Lifespan. 30-45 days.

How Do I Know If I Have Thrips?

Damage. There are several telltale signs that Thrips may be attacking your plants. Most thrips feed in hidden areas such as buds and shoot tips. Often damage is observed before the pest. Here’s what to look for.

Stippled leaf surfaces speckled with black, watery fecal spots.

Leaves that become scabby, silvery to dark brown.

Leaves that become distorted, curled, or galled.

Dead shoot tips and leaves.

How to Get Rid of Thrips

Control. Several insects such as lace bugs, mites, and plant bugs cause similar plant tissue damage caused by thrips so it is important to identify the insect prior to choosing control methods.

Commercial Controls. Spinosad, a natural, broad-spectrum insecticide, is a bacterial product produced by fermentation designed to control thrips.
Additional control methods include Pyrethrin Spray, Horticultural Oils, and Insecticidal Soaps

Thrips are hard to control with pesticides and also run the risk of killing of beneficial insect populations.

Can I Get Rid of Thrips Naturally?

Natural Predators. Minute pirate bugs play a major role in thrips control. Predatory mites and entomopathogenic fungi also attack thrips.

Cultural Controls. Thrips tend to populate in heavily weeded areas. Once plants emerge, do not cultivate weeds, which may disrupt the population causing them to move to the new plant material.

Conserve predatory insects by avoiding broad-spectrum insecticides.

Remove damage plant material and destroy.

Can I Prevent Thrips?

Prevention. Prior to purchasing new plant material, inspect carefully for any signs of thrips or thrips damage. To avoid introducing a pest into a healthy garden, segregate newly purchased plants from healthy plants for a week. In the case of thrips, use Insect Monitor Cards that can be placed around the new plant material to capture thrips movement.

Because thrips tend to populate in heavily weeded areas, cultivate weeds prior to planting. Maintain a wide weed-free area around gardens.

Maintain adequate nitrogen levels. High levels encourage thrips populations.

Maintain adequate moisture levels. Too much water encourages thrips populations.

Reflective mulch discourages thrips.

Row covers on small plants can help to discourage thrips.

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