Identify, Treat, Control and Prevent Thrips on Houseplants

Thrips are the insect order Thysanoptera and are known for their slender bodies, fringed wings, and asymmetrical mouth structure. Also known as thunderbugs, storm flies, corn fleas/flies, harvest bugs, woodworm, freckle bugs, and other names, these pests most commonly attack outdoor plants. However, if they find a way into your home, you can easily find thrips on houseplants, too. Learn how to identify and what to do about these houseplant pests.

How to Identify Thrips on Houseplants

Black, light-green or translucent, the real problem with identifying thrips on houseplants is that even the flying adult is only about one millimeter big. This is not the type of pest you can see and remove individually, though a group of scattering adults may be visible if you have a quick eye. More commonly, thrips are identified by the white or silvery speckled spots they create when feeding on houseplants. Eventually, the leaves turn splotchy and die back. Left unchecked, whole plants may become twisted and scarred.

Thrip Pest Control and Treatment

Another great way to identify thrips is also one of the ways of controlling these pests. Blue or yellow sticky paper traps will remove a good portion of the thrips from the plant, while also allowing you to closely examine and confirm this is the pest causing damage to the plant. It may be necessary to move the houseplant and sticky paper to a place where pets and other animals can’t get to it. You can then begin to treat the plant with an insecticide. You can also fight this bug with other bugs. Ladybugs are a great option for general houseplant pest control. The predatory mite, amblyseius cucumeris, also loves to prey on thrips to the point eradication and without harming the plant itself.

How to Prevent Thrips on Houseplants

As with most plants pests, the best way to prevent thrips is to stay diligent with houseplant care and keep the plant as strong and healthy as possible. These plants are harder to attack and less attractive to pests. The most common way that thrips find your plants is by catching a ride on an outdoor plant or other organic material that’s brought inside the home.

Thrip prevention is one reason among many to remove any dead or wilted growth, especially if it has fallen into the plant soil. Dead houseplant material will look like a feast to the hungry thrip. You can also continue to treat the plant with insecticidal soap, oils, or other preventative measures. Even so, preventative steps may fail to do the trick. Early identification is imperative to try to save the plant. Each time you water, be sure to take an extra moment to turn the leaves over and look for any signs of distress or pest movement.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Treating Houseplants for Thrips

If you catch this pest early enough and are diligent, you can control or even eradicate a thrip infestation. The problem with these bugs is that they breed in just over two weeks and, left unchecked, the “flying” adult insects can spread to other plants in your home. At the very least, isolate any houseplants that are showing signs of thrips and continue to monitor all the plants in your home for signs the infestation has spread. If there’s any doubt that you’ll be able to save the individual plant, it’s probably best to throw it away, rather than risk an infestation to your other houseplants.

Not sure if you’re dealing with thrips on your houseplants? Check out our general guide for

Learn more about identifying, treating, and preventing pests with our general guide on houseplant pests.