Thrips are tiny, almost microscopic (1/16-1/8 inch), insects with thin, feathery wings and rasping mouthparts. Most thrips feed on plants but a few species are beneficial predators that feed on other insects and mites. Plant injury is caused by both nymphs and adults rasping the bud, flower and leaf tissues of the host plants, and then sucking the exuding sap. This causes distorted and discolored flowers or buds and gray or silvery, speckled areas on the leaves. They produce large quantities of a varnish-like excrement which collects on leaves, creating an unsightly appearance. Thrips can be pests in flower and vegetable gardens, shrubs, trees and crops.

The word "thrips" signifies a single insect (i.e. there is no such thing as a thrip).

adult thrips and damage
Adult thrips and damage.

thrips damage on bean
Thrips damage on a bean leaf.

thrips damage on onion
Thrips damage on onion.

greenhouse thrips
Thrips are very small (1/16-1/8 inch), fringe winged, and yellowish brown to amber with an orange thorax. The male is slightly smaller and lighter in color than the female.

thrips life cycle
Life cycle of thrips. Immature thrips are similar to adults but are wingless.

thrips nymphs on onion
Thrips nymphs on onion.

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Identification and Control Information

[Photos, left to right: David Cappaert, Michigan State University,; Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University,; Alton N. Sparks, Jr., University of Georgia,; David Cappaert, Michigan State University,; Department of Plant Pathology Archive, North Carolina State University,; Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,]