Insect plague: thrips: How to recognize the plant pest and fight it

Thrips (Thysanoptera) pierce the surface of leaves with their mouthparts.

Insect plague: thrips: How to recognize the plant pest and fight it

Thrips (Thysanoptera) pierce the surface of leaves with their mouthparts. The insects can be recognized by their black-brown bodies, which are one to three millimeters long. Some have narrow wings that have a black and white striped pattern. They are also often called thrips and belong to an order of insects that includes around 5,500 species worldwide. Their food is the cell sap of plants and that makes the animals unpopular roommates. How do you recognize an infestation and fight thrips effectively? Tips at a glance.

The small animals are difficult to see, which is why you usually only notice the infestation when there are large accumulations of thrips and their light green larvae on the underside of the leaves — and leaf injuries are already clearly visible. The thrips eat through the leaves with their mouthparts. This is how air gets into the interior of the plant cells. The affected areas begin to shimmer silvery-white. If the infestation is severe, indoor plants also react with growth disorders. Tiny droppings and damaged shoots also expose the pests. In the worst case, the affected plant can be so badly damaged that it dies.

Unlike pests that prefer wet conditions, thrips like it dry. The little animals feel comfortable in warm temperatures. That's why you should pay special attention to your plant in summer in order to recognize an infestation early. Once you have identified an infested plant, separate it from the others to prevent the pests from spreading. Here are some tips you can try individually or in combination.

You can fight flying thrips with glue boards. Best in the color blue, because this is perceived as attractive by the animals. Blue panels can simply be stuck in the ground and catch winged animals. However, the method does not work against the larvae and crawling animals do not always get there. That is why you should always use blue boards in combination with other remedies.

Neem tree oil is a natural repellent because it stops insects from developing. For this you have to cover the larvae with some oil to hinder their development.

This simple yet effective method can be implemented immediately when it's cold and damp outside. Place the affected plant on the balcony or terrace, the pests don't like cold or wet conditions.

It may sound strange, but give the plant a cold shower. The effect is similar, thrips do not like wet and cold. However, cover the ground so that no thrips fall into the ground.

Using predators of thrips is a natural home remedy. Beneficial insects such as lacewings, predatory mites or ladybirds are suitable for this. If you place the animals directly on the plant, the thrips and their larvae will be eaten. The beneficial insects are available in specialist garden shops or online.

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