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Getting rid of pests: How to control thrips and keep the insects away from your houseplants

If you are an amateur gardener or a lover of houseplants, you have certainly wondered how to fight thrips. Although the so-called thrips are tiny insects, they can cause great damage because they feed on plants. In addition, they are some of the most troublesome plant pests for gardeners because they are difficult to spot. Often, their marks look more like a feeding or disease problem. Here is some useful plant care information and tips that can help you fight fringe winged insects.

Apply the right products and control thrips

control pests on houseplants like thrips and keep them away with the appropriate remedies

Thrips can infest hundreds of different ornamental and edible plants and are extremely resistant to eradication. The plant pests have slender bodies that are usually about 7 millimeters long, although some species can reach 1.5 centimeters. They are stinging, sucking insects that cause damage by feeding on plant juices. Thrips include more than 6,000 species in the order Thysanoptera. Of these, more than 200 are considered problem pests for indoor and outdoor plants. Most species have wings with fringes, and although they move quickly, thrips are poor fliers, moving with the wind rather than with their wings.

indoor plant affected by small insects or fungal disease with brown spots on the leaves

Under a magnifying glass, thrips have a characteristic cigar-shaped body that looks a bit like a worm with legs. They are social insects, usually found in clusters. Their colors are usually black or yellow-brown, but may have red, black or white markings. Thrips are a common pest found in greenhouses and gardens indoors and outdoors. They damage plants by sucking their juices and scratching fruits, flowers and leaves. Plant leaves may have brown leaf tips , as well as become pale, blotchy, and silvery, and then die. Injured plants are twisted, discolored and scarred.

Correctly identify the type of insects on houseplants.

detection of thrips in the garden can prevent damage to plants

Because thrips are so tiny, they can be difficult to see until the insect infestation becomes large. So one way to identify them is to place a white sheet of paper under the plant’s flowers or leaves and shake the stem. If thrips are present, some will fall off and their darker bodies will be easy to spot on the white paper. A 10- to 15x magnifying glass will help identify the pest.

treat plants with yellowish spots infested by thrips using natural pesticides


You can also use sticky traps to catch thrips for monitoring and identification. This won’t keep the insects away, but it will let you know if your houseplant is infested. It’s best to use custom-made blue traps instead of standard yellow traps. Blue traps seem to be more effective at catching thrips, and they are easier to see against blue than yellow.

How thrips develop in the garden or on houseplants?

how thrips can feed on the sap of an indoor plant and cause it to die

There are several species of thrips that survive in almost any environment and have evolved to feed on almost all different types of plants. In general, however, thrips are more of a problem in gardens where there are many weeds. These often serve as host plants from which garden infestations begin. In addition, gardens with a lot of soil debris are likely havens for such insects, as eggs laid in plant tissue can easily overwinter to hatch as nymphs the following spring.

Follow simple steps to control thrips.

early detection of pests such as thrips in the garden contributes to proper plant care


Early detection and integrated pest management are the best ways to prevent large-scale infestations. This includes some tolerance of minor plant damage, which is kept in check by selectively pruning and destroying affected plant parts or by regularly washing plants with water blasts to remove thrips. Thrips are so widespread that trying to control them by using chemical pesticides is often counterproductive. This is because by doing so, you can kill a variety of beneficial insects, which also causes local populations of thrips to develop chemical resistance.

brown spots on a plant leaf caused by insects and deceiving as a possible disease

Integrated pest management is considered to be the coordinated use of pest and environmental information with available pest management methods to prevent unacceptable pest damage by the most economical means and with the least possible risk to people, property, and the environment. In other words, when controlling thrips, for most gardeners this is an ongoing activity that requires some tolerance to the presence of these persistent creatures and the damage they cause. This is the price to pay for an overall balanced and healthy garden ecosystem.

Prune vin insect infested houseplants.

cut off dead plant leaves that have been attacked by insects or diseases

If you see spotting or wrinkling of leaves along with black spots, it’s likely you’ve identified thrips-related damage on your plant. Prune and destroy the affected leaves immediately. However, you should completely remove a severely infected plant to prevent the pests from spreading to other plants. Routine inspection and pruning of plants damaged by thrips is sometimes sufficient to keep infestations at a manageable level.

Wash affected plant leaves

use natural pesticides like neem oil and pyrethine as plant protection and control thrips

As mentioned earlier, thrips are tiny insects. They are easily dislodged by hard water blasts, although you can spray your plants with water to get rid of the pests. However, be sure to focus on the underside of leaves, where insects often congregate. Spray or wash houseplants with a solution of soap and water (about 2 teaspoons of detergent to 3 gallons of water), making sure to apply the solution to all leaves and other areas of the plant. Washing plants is one method among several to help control thrips and keep the pests under control .

tiny larva of thrips on a plant leaf can cause great damage

However, washing alone is usually not enough to keep thrips away from your crops. Therefore, you can use the following methods as more effective countermeasures. While spraying actively growing plants with chemical pesticides is not usually recommended, it is a very good idea to dust any bulbs you dig up and store for the winter with insecticidal dust that will kill any overwintering pests. This is especially helpful for gladiolus bulbs, which are known to harbor thrips.

Use beneficial insects against thrips

use natural plant protection by beneficial insects against thrips in the garden or on indoor plants

A variety of natural enemies will devour fringe winged insects and their eggs. In fact, some predatory insects are so efficient that they are often intentionally purchased and introduced by commercial growers and greenhouse operators. Predatory mites, tiny pirate beetles, and lacewings are all well-known predators, and you may be able to purchase them to introduce into your home garden. However, this may also require repeated monthly applications to control thrips and keep them completely under control.

spray clean houseplants with nourishing solution

In addition, there may still be certain types of nematodes that act as beneficial insects against thrips. Contact your local garden center for information on which species of these microscopic soil worms are effective against such pests in your area. Another way to encourage natural predators is to use pesticides carefully and in limited amounts. Instead of spraying your plants extensively, use chemical pesticides very selectively or not at all, as they usually kill helpful predatory insects as well as your targeted pests.

Spray plants with neem oil or pyrethrin to control thrips.

use neem oil against pests in the garden

Neem oil is a natural substance extracted from the neem tree. This is an effective natural insecticide against many pests. However, unlike synthetic chemical pesticides, it is not devastating to bees and other pollinators. When using neem oil against thrips, a good method is to combine four teaspoons of the substance, two teaspoons of white dishwashing liquid and 3-4 liters of water. Accordingly, you can spray the solution directly on the affected areas of the plants. In addition, neem oil acts against the pests by disrupting the feeding and reproduction cycles of thrips.

make your own home remedy against plant pests and fight thrips

Pyrethrin is also a natural pesticide derived from the flowers of certain species of chrysanthemum. Spraying plants with two applications of pyrethrin three to four days apart will treat a serious thrips infestation. When doing this, make sure you use a pure pesticide that is considered safe and organic for this purpose. Pyrethroid, for example, is a synthetic version that contains chemicals. These are added to increase the pesticide’s effectiveness. In addition, pyrethroids are not considered organic pesticides, although they are admittedly safer than other traditional chemical pesticides.

Here’s how to control thrips and keep them away from plants.

wipe the dust from a money tree with a damp cloth

  • It is very difficult to completely prevent thrips. However, you can minimize populations by removing rotting plant litter rather than allowing pruned leaves, stems and dead flowers to lie on the ground during the winter. As winter approaches, remove and destroy dead plant stems to prevent eggs from overwintering.
  • If possible, keep your own garden and adjacent areas as weed-free as possible. Many weeds serve as hosts for thrips, which can easily drift into your garden in a light breeze.
  • Covering important plants with a fine mesh screen can also prevent infestations. Thrips travel primarily by drifting in the wind. Covering vegetables, cane crops and other susceptible plants with fine mesh screen can prevent the insects from gaining a foothold.