Bromeliad Pests – Thrips

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Care and Culture, Growing Indoors, Growing Outdoors, Insects

These tiny, sucking insects are not extremely common on houseplants, but occasionally they manage to multiply into bothersome populations.

Description: Generalized feeders commonly seen on garden flowers, thrips can come indoors on plants, people, and pets. Once confined to the only food available to them, your houseplants.

Thrips are quite tiny, seldom growing to more than 1/16 in (.16cm) long. Adults look like dark-colored shards or bits of thread, while young thrips are usually yellowish brown. Thrips feed on both leaves and flowers. Leaves that are infested with thrips often show silvery streaks where the thrips rasp into leaf tissue before inserting their straw-like mouthparts to suck plant juices. When an infestation is severe, the leaf may pucker or curl around the thrips, and you often can see sprinklings of black feces, which look like finely ground black pepper. When thrips feed on flowers, the petals show dark spots or blotches.

To positively identify thrips, shake the plant over a piece of white paper and look for tiny moving slivers. With a very strong magnifying glass (16X or better), you may be able to see feathery wings on the largest thrips.

Control: The easiest way to control thrips is to wash them off plants with a fine spray of water. This is best done outdoors or in the shower, and it’s a good idea to rinse the plant again after a few days. Should the problem persist, spray the plant with insecticidal soap. Several widely available pesticides kill thrips, including carbaryl. Sticky traps are also a good option. You can make your own sticky trap by coating a piece of blue cardboard or plastic with petroleum jelly or motor oil and installing it in an infested plant like a little flag. While many other pests are attracted to yellow sticky traps, thrips are drawn to bright blue!

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