If you have a garden of your own and you love tending to it, you probably know how annoying some pests can be. In this article, we will understand more about one such pest called thrips. We will also answer the very question every gardener, who has become a victim to these nuisance insects, could be asking – How do you get rid of thrips naturally?
What are Thrips?
Thrips are one of the thousands of tiny insects that love to dine on many plants. They belong to the order of Thysanoptera, which means fringe (thysanos) and wing (pteron), and has around 6000 species known currently. Of this number, only less than 10% are considered pests and damaging to crop commodities. While these insects do have narrow, fringed wings, these appendages are only for show and the thrips would have to jump from one leaf to another. These elongated and needle-like insects usually measure anywhere from 0.5 mm to 2 mm in length and can come in colors between yellow to brown to black. Without a magnifying glass, these insects will only resemble tiny dark threads.
While certain species of thrips aid in the pollination of flowers and feed on other harmful insects like mites, some species tend to do more damage than help to the crops especially since they are known to transmit tospoviruses to plants. When a single thrips damage a plant leaf, it leaves small streaks of white or silvery patches and then the leaf dies. This happens because the thrips suck the individual plant cells with their internal juices and contents and causing the cell tissues to dry up beneath the plant’s epidermis. Some species feed on several parts of the plants, while others exclusively feed on flowers, expanding leaves, or leaf buds. The damage that these tiny insects become visible to the human eye almost immediately after the feeding occurs.
While adults have a relatively short life span of only two to six weeks depending on the species, females can lay up to 300 eggs at a time, which hatch within a mere number of days. As such, these insects can build up to large numbers in a short amount of time and feed in large groups. Within a year, there may be 12 to 15 generations of thrips feeding on your crops.
So, How Do You Get Rid of Thrips Naturally?
To control thrips and get rid of them naturally, it is a matter of garden maintenance. Several DIY remedies are effective in organically removing these bugs and it largely involves reducing the places where they breed.
Organic Control and Prevention
- Any control measures should start with proper monitoring. Make sure to inspect plants that are susceptible to thrips damage every week. Regular monitoring will ensure any infestations starting will be spotted and managed right away.
- Your pest management plan should include removing any alternative hosts from your garden. This includes managing weed and removing grass from around the garden areas, green mulch, and debris like onion leaves.
- Placing yellow and blue sticky traps at the tops of your plants is another popular and highly effective method for monitoring and keeping adult thrips population under control. These traps contain a color attractant that helps protect plants from destructive pests including thrips. Make sure to stick these sticky cards at a rate of one trap per 750 square feet and replace them every three to four weeks.
- For moderate to severe infestations, insecticidal soaps or insecticides may be required to reduce pest numbers. As simple as soapy water has been proven to be a safe, organic, and effective way to get rid of thrips. Simply add a few drops of dish soap to a cup of water and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Make sure to test this on a small part of the plant first as some plants are sensitive and may easily be damaged by the insecticidal soap. Give it about two days and if the plant is fine, spray the mixture directly onto the thrips and the entire infected plant. These insecticidal soaps are effective at knocking down heavy thrips infestations but will not harm most of the beneficial insects. Do this for one month until all the thrips are gone. Remember that thrips manifestations can build up to large numbers in a relatively short period so removing them completely will take time.
- Another option is to use neem oil, which has also shown to be very effective against thrips. You only need a few drops of this oil per gallon of water. Like the soapy water, pour the potent mixture into a spray bottle and test it on a single leaf first before spraying it on the entire plant. Avoid using this mixture when your plant is under direct sunlight as it can easily burn your plant. Additionally, make sure to rinse your plant with water after about 20 minutes or so to remove all the dead thrips and avoid attracting other damaging pests who like to eat dead bugs.
- Additionally, make sure to check on all your other plants and discard any plant that has been infected immediately by securely bagging them and putting them in the trash.
- Do not forget to introduce beneficial insects that prey on these destructive pests, as well as spider mites and pollen. Ladybugs, pirate bugs, and lacewings are some great predators that can help at managing thrips populations. You can plant various flowers that help attract these insects as part of your pest prevention plan.
- As a last resort, sprinkle your plants liberally with diatomaceous earth or kaolin clay, which are organic pest controls that coat the plants’ foliage with gritty dust that feels like knife blades to these harmful pests. Diatomaceous earth will also effectively kill thrips that drop to the ground to pupate before they even have the chance to fly or jump back onto the plants. Make sure not to forego areas where plant foliage may be folded as well as the underside of the leaves.
Thrips can be a headache for any gardener or greenhouse grower. To better understand how do you get rid of thrips naturally, we have to first understand what thrips are, their life cycle, and the extent of damage they can create. In a matter of a day, thrips manifestations, depending on the severity, can kill a healthy plant.