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If your plant gets infected with thrips, you need to act fast! These little insects multiply quickly and can do a lot of damage to your houseplants.
SYMPTOMS & IDENTIFICATION
The first sign of thrips that you will usually notice is your plant’s leaves beginning to look a bit dull and unhealthy. You will often see:
Silvery or bronze discoloration
Browning or yellowing leaves
Black specks (thrips poo!)
Partially dead leaves
When taking a closer look at your plant, you might find something that looks like this - typically on the underside of the leaves:
1. Isolate the plant - thrips spread really fast!
Place the infected plant in a closed room to avoid thrips spreading to other plants
Make sure to also check all other plants for thrips
2. Wash the plant
Place the plant in the shower and rinse the leaves thoroughly with a jet of lukewarm water. This will quickly decrease the population (try to avoid getting too much water on the soil)
If it’s possible you can also take it outside and wash it off with a hose
3. Kill the thrips
There are several different types of pesticide that can help you kill and manage thrips. Thrips are unfortunately resistant to many types of pesticides so be sure the check the label
Treat your plant according to the instructions on the package
With neem oil
Mix 1 quart of lukewarm water, 1 tsp neem oil, 1/2 tsp liquid soap and a few drops of rubbing alcohol. Shake until all the neem oil is diluted into the mix (neem oil mixes more easily with warm water)
Spray the leaves and stem with the solution and pour any excess down into the soil to prevent new eggs from hatching
If you have a bad infestation, you can mix some insecticide into the neem solution for extra killing power
Note: Neem oil has a very strong smell, which many find unpleasant. The smell will stop as soon as the oil is dry.
With thrips predators
Biological control can help to reduce or eliminate an infestation or can be used in combination with other treatments
Neoseiulus cucumeris - prey on the eggs and nymphs
Minute pirate bug (Orius insidiosus) and other Orius bugs - eat both eggs, nymphs and adult thrips
The idea of releasing MORE insects in your home may not feel very pleasant, however, this is actually one of the most eco-friendly ways of keeping the infestation down or preventing pests on newly acquired plants.
HOW CAN I PREVENT THIS IN THE FUTURE?
You can stop a major infestation by carefully checking and quarantining new plants that come into your home.
Put all new houseplants in quarantine before introducing them to the rest of your plants
Do regular check-ups on your plants
Keep fresh fruit, vegetables and cut flowers away from your plants
QUESTIONS ABOUT THRIPS
HOW BIG ARE THEY? Thrips are small, slender insects not larger than about 1/25-inch (1 mm) long. Adult thrips are black and can fly while the larvae are off-white or yellowish in color. There are thousands of different species.
WHAT DO THEY EAT? Their main food is plant sap, which they feast on by puncturing the leaf and sucking up its contents. This is why you often find silvery or bronze-colored scars on leaves where the thrips have been. They also eat pollen from the flowers.
DO THEY BITE HUMANS? They can bite us, but it shouldn’t cause any great discomfort. It’s also not very common to get bitten by thrips.
WHERE DID THEY COME FROM? Thrips are common outdoors, so it’s possible that they ended up indoors via another plant that spent some time in the garden. They could also have been brought in on cut flowers, vegetables or fruit, or other plants you just bought.
And, since they can fly, it’s possible they flew in through an open window or door.
CAN THEY FLY? They do fly, but are not very good at it and would probably rather not. However, you should consider using sticky traps to catch thrips on their way through the air searching for new plants to eat (it is quite uncommon to see thrips flitting about though).
HOW LONG DO THEY LIVE? After hatching, the small thrip, called a nymph, can be seen walking around on the plant - almost transparent to yellow in color. Adult stage is reached within 8-15 days, and their total lifespan is about 45 days. There may be as many as 12-15 thrips generations per year. Also, the little insect can reproduce asexually - which means they don’t need a mate to multiply.