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Thrips Order Thysanoptera

Also known as thunderbugs, thunderflies and corn lice, thrips are small insects. Some thrips have fringed wings; in fact, the name of the Order Thysanoptera, is derived from the Greek words for fringe (thysanos) and wing (pteron). More than 5,000 species of thrips have been identified. Thrips vary in size, though most measure approximately one millimeter in length.

Thrips use their maxillary stylets to puncture the outer layer of plants or the skin of animals, from which they extract sap, blood or other fluids. After feeding on plants, thrips leave visible signs of damage such as deformities and blackening of the skin. Thrips may also lay their eggs on fruits and crops, resulting in small discolorations surrounded by white haloes.

Flower thrips cause equal damage to ornamental crops. These thrips are yellow, orange or amber in color. In addition to marring the appearance of flowers, these thrips can spread a number of diseases, such as the tomato spotted wilt virus and the necrotic spot virus. Flower thrips typically grow in population during spring.

Because their feeding habits destroy a number of commercial crops, thrips are considered especially problematic in agricultural communities. They are known to proliferate quickly and swarm heavily in areas with crops. Thrips do invade homes and some species have been known to bite humans. If thrips populations are not controlled, affected flowering plants may lose their ability to produce.

Size:

Tiny insect; only one to five millimeters in length.

Color:

Varies, depending on species. Most are dark with whitish or translucent wings that are long, thin and fringed with long hairs.

Behavior:

Thrips primarily feed on plants, although some species are predaceous or feed on fungal spores. These insects are usually seen in buildings only when the populations on landscape plants grow large. Thrips may be attracted to buildings by the heat or coolness given off or by other factors. Once on a building, their tiny size gives them easy access inside -- insect screens pose no barrier to them. These insects are important because they will bite people even though they do not feed on blood like mosquitoes and mites. It is unknown why they bite when they land on exposed skin, but the resulting bite can produce a stinging sensation and be quite painful. Often, bites occur to people sitting or working outdoors near plants which harbor the thrips. They may fly onto a patio or deck, then land on a person and bite. As a result, they have been known to disrupt dining experiences on restaurant patios.

Habitats:

Shrubs and other landscape plantings attract thrips to and around buildings. 

Control:

Once thrips are identified as the culprit, the plantings they infest will require treatment. Such treatment is completed by a tree and shrub company, such as TruGreen. Pest control companies do not typically carry the necessary licenses to treat plant pests, but some pest control companies will be licensed and offer such services. It is recommended to consult a professional for advice.

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