Thrips, or Thysanoptera, have a flat, slender, and long body, with an average length of 1/25 inch. When they are adults, they have narrow wings and long fringes. It is also important to note that there are some wingless species. The color can vary, although most of them are black. There are also some that are white and yellow. One thing that makes them unique from other pests is that only one jaw appears out of their head. The right jaw is absorbed by their body during its development after the egg hatches. The physical characteristics, however, will vary as there are more than 5,000 species of thrips that are available.
The habitats of these pests will largely depend on the weather. They can thrive in different places depending on what time of the year it is. In the winter months, they prefer to be on the ground or under plant debris. On the other hand, in the summer and spring, they are usually in trees, flowers, and fruits. On average, 40% of thrips thrive on leaf litter or dead branches. During the larval stage, many of them also live in the same habitat, but in most instances, they fall on the ground just in time for pupation. They survive not only in the garden, but even in alpine meadows, open habitats, and tropical forests, among others.
Identifying Thrips’ Damage
They feed on different plants and suck their nutrients, making these pests result in heavy and frustrating infestation. Fungal spores and pollens are some of the most common places where you can find thrips. Some of their most popular hosts include African violets, orchids, gladioli, roses, onions, carrots, beans, garlic, cotton, tomatoes, celery, pineapple, cucumber, cabbage, and squash. The infestation is more severe in lands with crops, which makes the pest a huge problem in agricultural communities and amongst commercial growers.
The following are some of the most common signs of infestation of thrips:
- One of the most common parts of the plant that thrips affect is the leaves. They suck the juices from the leaf, depriving it of the nutrients that are important for its growth. This leads to papery appearance and distortion. There are also pale spots that may appear on the surface of the leaf. Silver streaks also appear when there is a huge population of thrips feeding on the host. Eventually, it will fall and cause defoliation.
- In the case of flowers, on the other hand, color break can be apparent. This leads to the petals of the affected flower to turn pale or to experience discoloration.
- The fruits are also affected. For instance, in avocado, silver lines may appear on the skin. However, the damage is only mostly aesthetic and does not negatively impact the fruit itself.
- The size of the crops will also be smaller than the usual, especially in the case of onions.
Results of Infestation
Thrips can invade both indoors and outdoors. At home, there are some species that could bite. It also affects a wide array of indoor plants and in severe cases, this may interfere the flowering of the plant. They threaten not only the physical appearance of the plants, but will also lead to their death. This is especially the case if the plant is young, but rarely happens in shrubs and trees. It can also lead to plant stunting because of the inability of the host to absorb the essential nutrients.
How to Get Rid of Thrips
Natural and Organic Solutions
Eliminating thrips is possible without causing harm to the environment. The following are some of the non-toxic solutions that might work:
- Biological control is on the top of the list. There are insects that you can purchase from commercial sellers. Alternatively, you can also alter the external environment in your garden. For instance, you can grow plants that can attract natural enemies of thrips. Some of the predators include parasitic wasps, minute pirate bugs, and green lacewings.
- Environmental control is also a promising solution not only for the elimination of thrips, but also for their prevention. Aside from making the garden free from leaf debris or decaying vegetation, pruning will also help. This will allow you to get rid of the unhealthy part of the plant and will prevent the problem from spreading.
- The use of row covers is also an excellent method for control and elimination. Nonetheless, at some point, you will need to remove the cover, especially when the plant begins to flower. Through the covers, you are essentially building a protective barrier against thrips.
- Mulching may also work. Reflective mulch, to be specific, can reduce or delay the infestation of thrips. You can use aluminum foil or any other synthetic mulch with gray or silver color.
- Another cost-effective solution that you might want to try is the use of sticky traps. This will only work best if the infestation is small, such as in an outdoor garden.
- If you have to use sprays or apply an insecticide, it is important to make sure that it is made from ingredients that are non-toxic. One of the best choices is one made from plant oils and fats. They will target only the thrips and not the beneficial insects that you need in the garden.
In many agricultural communities or commercial plantations with a large-scale infestation of thrips, it is common to resort to the use of chemical control. Some people use it even at home, but as much as possible, stay away from chemicals. Avoid systemic organophosphate acephate. It is one of the chemicals that is highly toxic to beneficial insects. One of the most effective choices is dinotefuran, although it requires a professional application to yield a high level of success in its use.
How to Prevent Thrips
Most of the thrips feed on decaying vegetation, leaves, and dead bark of tree, among others. With this, one of the best preventive measures is basic cleanliness. Keep the garden free from mess and this will help the lessen the likelihood that thrips will survive. Also, if possible and if crops can survive, plant during the rainy season. This helps as rain will wash away the thrips from the plant. There are also resistant varieties that you might want to consider planting, which means that thrips will not be a problem since the plant will resist their presence.