All About Thrips and How to Treat Them

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Thrips are common pests found in indoor gardens. One or two can quickly become an infestation and severely damage your plants. Treating these annoyances can be difficult, but luckily there are steps to take to try to prevent severe infestations to your indoor plants.

What Are Thrips?

What Are Thrips

Thrips are also known to some as Thysanoptera and Thunderflies. There are over 6000 species of Thrips. Thrips can be beige or black, with two pairs of wings, and are tiny insects. Adults, for example, are less than 1/25 inch in size. Thrips resemble small thin strands similar to sewing needles, and they travel and feed in large groups.

Thrips are sucking insects, feeding off plants and plant sap. Thrips do not only suck and feed off of plants; they also transmit viruses to plants, killing them.

Thrip Life Cycle

Thrip Life Cycle

In Spring, newly emerged females will insert eggs into plant tissues of flowers, leaves, and stems. Female Thrips can produce up to 80 eggs, potentially creating 12-15 generations per year.

After a female lays its eggs, eggs can hatch within only a few days of warmer weather. When Thrip eggs hatch, they initially become nymphs or wingless larvae when they feed on plant sap. After feeding on sap, the thrips will drop to the soil beneath them to populate.

Identifying Thrip Infestation

Identifying Thrip Infestation

Thrips suck plant cells from leaves, flowers, trees, fruit, and other garden plants. When Thrips have started taking over your plants, you will notice streaks, white patches, and speckling discolored areas. If they have transmitted viruses to your plants, you may see your plants welt around the leaf edges.

Thrips can sometimes be identified before an infestation. Thrips scare easily and will leap or fly around your plant. When you are watering your plant or nearby, take a moment to check for these pesky insects. It will be hard to see their bodies without a magnifying glass, but you will notice tiny thread-like particles moving around or leaf veins appearing animated. If you happen to look at they under a magnifying glass, some describe them as having a lobster appearance.

How To Treat Thrip Infestations

How To Treat Thrip Infestations

Treating Thrips infestations have the best results when done as soon as your first notice them attacking your plants.

Here are the steps to follow to treat Thrips:

  1. Take your plant outside or to the shower and thoroughly wash down leaves and stems, removing any active pests. After doing this, make sure to allow your plant to drain before returning to its usual location.
  2. Grab your insecticide, such as neem oil. Neem oil has been used for hundreds of years as a natural pesticide for houseplants. Mix neem oil into a spray bottle with water and apply to your plant, ensure you get the underside of leaves. Let the neem oil mixture rest for about 10 minutes, and then gently wipe off the residue. If neem oil does not appear strong enough for your plant infestation, you can purchase over-the-counter insecticides. Be sure when using chemical insecticides to apply them in the late evening away from sunlight because too much sunlight with chemical insecticides can cause your plants to burn. Repeat insecticide application weekly until no signs of Thrips remain.
  3. Dust the underside of leaves and top of the soil with diatomaceous earth. They make food-grade versions to purchase, which are safer for pets if accessed but will help rid Thrips and other insects.
  4. Gently shake plant branches to remove any thrips that may have hatched since washing. Shaking will dislodge them from your plant leaves, and the diatomaceous earth should help rid them from returning to your plant.

How To Prevent Thrip Infestations

Prevent Thrip Infestations

Taking every precaution to prevent them will help save you and your plant heartache and headache in the future.

Tips to prevent Thrips:

  1. Thoroughly inspect any and all plants. Check the underside of leaves, shake off your plant, and gently wipe off leaves with water before bringing them indoors.
  2. Change out new plant soil before bringing them indoors. Along with cleaning off leaves, it is always a good idea to change plant soil to rid any pest eggs that could be lingering.
  3. Remove plant debris, weeds, and dead flowers as soon as noticed falling from your plants. Waste around a plant can become a feeding ground for Thrips; keeping the area as clean as possible can help avoid potential infestations.

Conclusion

Thrips are aggravating, pesky pests that can become infestations quickly because of how fast they reproduce and how difficult they are to spot. The best combat against them is examining every new plant you bring indoors. Meanwhile, keep up on maintenance and periodic inspections of existing indoor plants.

FAQ

Potentially yes. It is best if you are working with and treating outdoor plants to wash your hands and even change clothes thoroughly before working with your indoor garden. If you decide to move an outdoor plant inside, take every precaution possible to ensure it does not have an active Thrip or other pests’ infestation before bringing it inside.  

Start treatments on all infested plants immediately and keep them separated throughout treatments so they will not reinfest each other and to help you determine which plants recover as they individually recover. Once all plants have been treated and resolved rid of their Thrip infestations, you can move them back to their original locations. It would help to treat again once or twice even after determining the infestation is gone just to be on the safe side.

Thrips are easier to treat the sooner they are spotted. Start by rinsing and shaking off leaves in a shower or with a hose. This will dislodge any adult Thrips hanging on to leaves and feeding off your plants. Secondly, spray and wipe your plant leaves down with insecticides. Insecticides will help kill any lingering Thrips. Third, lightly sprinkle diatomaceous earth under leaves and top of the soil to help rid Thrip eggs as they hatch. Lastly, repeat insecticides weekly until there are no signs of Thrips remaining.

Thrips are determined in a few different ways. They are hard to spot with the naked eye but get scared easily and will jump or fly around the plant. Look for needle-like movement or even leaf veins appearing animated. Besides searching for Thrips, themselves, they can damage a plant. Commonly Thrips leave white patches, discolored leaves, and dark areas. If Thrips are carrying plant viruses, leaves will start to welt.

Thrips are a slender, tiny, strand-like pest that has a straw-like or black appearance. There are over 6000 species of Thrips. Some feed on leaves, flowers, buds, and even fruit plants. Thrips are hard to spot with the naked eye, but under a microscope can be described as having a lobster-like appearance.

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