Tiny Orange Bugs That Bite May Be Thrips

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If you have ever felt tiny but slightly painful bites from tiny orange insects while you are outside, you might have encountered an order of insects commonly known as Thrips (scientific name – Thysanoptera).

Thrips are really tiny insects that appear orange or yellow (some readers have even described them as tiny brown bugs that bite) to the naked eye.

Thrips are tiny. They measure between 0.5 mm (almost microscopic) to 14 mm (size of a typical board game dice) in length. Most North American thrips are 5 mm in length. To put that into context, 5 mm is half a centimeter or the size of a pencil top eraser.

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Thrips are mostly found outside the house. It is not uncommon to see these tiny orange bugs crawling on your skin when you are out for a walk in the summer. While they are not harmful, their bite can be a little sharp.

Over the years, we have been frequently asked questions around Thrips that we have answered below. You can scroll down for more Thrips’ images, our readers’ questions, and comments.

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Do these tiny orange bugs bite?

Yes, thrips are tiny biting bugs. Normally, they prefer to suck on flowers, but if they come in contact with humans, they can bite. 

Their bite can cause Thysanoptera Dermatitis. While it sounds like a disease, thrips bites look and feel like mosquito bites and heal themselves naturally in a few days. They may cause itchy, pink-colored lesions, mostly on your hands and legs.

Can thrips spread disease?

Although thrips do not cause any known diseases in humans, they are carriers of several plant viruses of the Tospovirus, Carmovirus, Ilarvirus, Sobemovirus, and Machlomovirus genera. 

Among these, Tospoviruses are the ones that can cause diseases such as capsicum chlorosis and scape blight of onion. 

Are they harmful to humans or pets?

No, thrips are not harmful to either humans or pets.

Their bite can sting for a while, but topical lotions should be able to soothe you. You should wash the bite with soap and hot water to reduce the itchiness.

Having said that, we are not medical professionals and if you are dealing with an insect bite that is not getting better, it is best to seek professional medical attention.

Can thrips get in the house?

Yes, they can. While you are most likely to find these biting bugs in the grass or on outdoor plants, thrips can, on occasion, come inside and affect your indoor house plants too.

How to get rid of thrips?

To get rid of thrips, you can blast them with hot water to get them off your garden plants. If you find these tiny yellow bugs in your house or infesting your indoor plants, a soap water solution sprinkled on the leaves should be able to get them out. If that doesn’t work call a local pest company.

Where do thrips lay their eggs?

Thrips lay their eggs on the soft tissues of plants. This can include places like: 

  • Young leaves, leaf buds, and leaf stems
  • Inside fruits and flowers
  • Soft-wood stems
  • Flower buds

Thrips can cause galls, a kind of bloated plant material sticking out of the infected plant. They can also lay their eggs in tiny wedges or nooks in the plant. 

Another place that you will find these tiny yellow bugs leaving their eggs on is the underside of leaves. 

One of the species (the Tubulifera sub-order) uses a special glue made of proteins and other compounds to attach their eggs to leaves. 

This glue is very difficult to remove and helps protects the eggs from falling down during rain or when it is windy.

What are thrips attracted to?

The F. Instonsa thrips are attracted to the color white. But in general, thrips are attracted to blue, yellow, and then white-colored sticky traps. These traps are designed to collect thrips and keep them away from plants to protect crops.

References:

  1. Potter, M. F. (2021). Thrips. University of Kentucky Entomology. Retrieved from University of Kentucky Entomology 
  2. Penn State Extension. (2020). Thrips: Plant pests. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved June 30, 2024, from Penn State Extension 
  3. Rebek, E. J., & Ludwig, S. (2016). Thrips: Biology and control. Oklahoma State University Extension. Retrieved June 30, 2024, from Oklahoma State University Extension.
  4. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. (2022). Pest notes: Thrips. Retrieved June 30, 2024, from ipm.ucanr.edu 
  5. Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. (2023). Thrips. Retrieved June 30, 2024, from Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Thrips is Unknown Insect from Spain

Insect id
Location: Madrid (Spain)
October 1, 2011 7:24 pm
I’m trying to find what bug is this, but I cannot find nothing nowhere.
Thanks for the help.
Signature: blackberriem

Thrips

Hi Maria,
We do not recognize your insect, and since we took the day off yesterday unexpectedly, we need to try to respond to as many requests as we can this morning.  We are posting your insect as unidentified and we hope to try to research this later, and perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide us with some assistance.

Eric Eaton confirms Thrips identification
Yes, it is a thrips, but not sure which family, let alone genus, species. …
Eric

Letter 2 – Tiny Orange Bugs That Bite Might Be Thrips

 

Letter 3 – These bugs were all over my children…

Location: Florida

May 11, 2017 3:06 pm

We live in Florida, Orlando to be exact and I felt so itchy when my son came home from his father’s house in Leesburg Florida. I noticed tiny orange/brown bugs all over my youngest son and I while near our glass sliding door.

I don’t know if they came with my eldest son and they just multiplied once inside… my partner and I thought they were bed bugs because thy were so itchy once they landed on us. We have looked up countless bugs and been on countless websites.

They are so small we had to look st them under a microscope… we ended up throwing out mattress out because that’s where I felt them the most, and since then I have not seen any… but I’m sill confused and want to know exactly what they are so if it happens again I can do something about it sooner.

Thank you.

Signature: Kay

Thrips

Dear Kay,

You and your family are being bitten by Thrips (same singular and plural), which are small insects found outdoors as most are plant feeders. According to BugGuide:

Thrips can often be found on flowers, they are especially visible on light colored flowers like daisies. Be aware that though they are very tiny, they can give a slightly painful bite.

The bite is not considered dangerous, just painful. Here is a BugGuide image of Thrips. Alas, throwing out the mattress was not necessary, but it is always so wonderful to sleep on a new mattress.

Thrips

Oh my goodness thank you so much, we figured that is what they were after searchig for hours online, we do have a lot of plants in the house and around our bed, so no wondering that’s why I was seeing them mainly there. And oh yes the new mattress was the perfect Mother’s Day gift either way ! (: thank you!

Letter 4 – Subject: What is this?

Location: Windsor, Ontario, Canada

April 27, 2017 5:43 am

I would really appreciate your help, I was sitting in my vehicle with the doors open and kept feeling little bites i then noticed multiple bugs like this one on my arm. The have wings and can jump/fly. I also noticed them on my white vehicle. Can u help identify them?

Signature: Sarah

Thrips

Dear Sarah,

This looks like a Thrips, which is used for both singular and plural.  According to BugGuide:

Some are wingless; where present, the wings are narrow with few or no veins and fringed with long hairs. Mouthparts asymmetrical (no right mandible), suitable for piercing and sucking. Antennae relatively short, 4- to 9-segmented; tarsi 1-2-segmented, with 1-2 claws and are bladder-like at the end.”

Letter 5 – Subject: Small, very small, winged and spiked

Location: Northern California east bay

May 11, 2014 2:40 pm

I have these all over the kids play set and they are by the millions! Super small. They bite and fly. I have one on the end of the tweezer to compare the size. Please if you could help us! Plus they were all over the tree trimmings that were sitting for two weeks…
Signature: Elizabeth and fam

Thrips
Thrips

Dear Elizabeth,

These are Thrips in the order Thysanoptera.

Subject: thrips

October 25, 2013 8:39 pm

No info was provided on how we can get them out of our hair/head and to quit biting us. I have already been to the emergency room for an infected bite and nothing I try has helped. Many years ago (1984), we had an infestation in our home because of weeds on our acreage, and these tiny things blew threw the window screens. It cost us over $300 in pest control, and in addition, we had to get rid of our carpeting, mattresses and sofas/chairs with fabric coverings.

Recently our Bexar county extension service identified my samples as “thrips” again.  Cattle need to be considered if pesticides are used on property where they eat/drink, as well as any other livestock.

Signature: Lonnie

Thrips photo from our archives
Thrips photo from our archives

Dear Lonnie,

We are sorry, but we haven’t any suggestions.  We do not really provide extermination advice.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide you with some assistance.

Letter 6 – Subject: Biting Bugs

Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

August 8, 2012 12:38 pm

I live in Iowa and I was just outside (it rained earlier today) and I kept feeling little bites all over my hands and arms. At first I couldn’t see anything but if I looked very close I saw a TINY, no bigger than a dot of a pen, orange bug possibly a little blackish brown on it’s bottom with 6(?)legs crawling on me.

And there wasn’t just one, they were everywhere and they all were bitting me. I didn’t sit in the grass or touch anything so I have no idea how they got on me or if they even came from the outside. Help!

Signature: Melissa

Possibly Thrips

Hi Melissa,

Based on your detailed description, we believe you might have had an encounter with insects from the order Thysanoptera, commonly called Thrips. There is not enough detail in your photograph for any definitive identification, but the photograph does support our supposition. 

According to BugGuide

Thrips are small:  0.5-14 mm (typically 1-2 mm, NA species under 5 mm). Some are wingless; where present, the wings are narrow with few or no veins and fringed with long hairs. Mouthparts asymmetrical (no right mandible), suitable for piercing and sucking. Antennae relatively short, 4- to 9-segmented; tarsi 1-2-segmented, with 1-2 claws and are bladder-like at the end.

This is the BugGuide statement that supports our identification:

Thrips can often be found on flowers, they are especially visible on light colored flowers like daisies. Be aware that though they are very tiny, they can give a slightly painful bite.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Thrips, Tiny Orange Bugs, Tiny Orange Bugs That Bite

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26 Comments. Leave new

  • I think this might be a Thrips, Thysanoptera.

    Naturalisguy
    Facebook: Naturalist Guy
    http://www.NaturalistGuy.com

    Reply
  • I think this might be a Thrips, Thysanoptera. Maybe something related or near to this group: the Phlaeothripidae?

    http://bugguide.net/images/cache/LZNL3LUL0Z3Z8R0H6R3Z2RQH6RBL5RRH8RZHERSH6RLHPR1L5ROZIRELSRELKRZH8ROLPRHHSZBLSZTLLZTLKZRH6R.jpg

    Naturalisguy
    Facebook: Naturalist Guy
    http://www.NaturalistGuy.com

    Reply
  • Hi Maria,

    it is a thrips of the family Phlaeothripidae.
    The species is Compsothrips albosignatus O.M.REUTER, 1884. According to the shape of the front femurs I would say that it is a male.
    This species is widespread in Southern Europe, Cyprus and in North Western Africa.

    Nice photo!

    Manfred

    ………………………….
    http://www.thysanoptera.de

    Reply
  • Yes these are the thrips larvae and boy do they hurt! They are attracted to light/bright colored clothing. I was attacked by these little boogers tonight at my son’s baseball game. I’m the team mom and was in charge of taking care of both team’s scores/runs/outs etc, and I was being attacked by them. Trying to swat these things and pay attention to the game was extremely difficult! LOL
    It is almost 5am now, and I have been up all night trying to figure out what these things were.

    In my research, I have found that:
    1.) Peppermint/spearmint type of oils are a deterrent for these bugs. (At least it smells good!)
    2.) Off or other sprays AREN’T effective and seem to attract them. (Stuff stinks anyway LOL)
    3.) They are attracted to light/bright colored clothing (Great…I’m a girl and love light/bright colors)
    4.) Often are found near weeds, bright colored flowers, and wood (Ughh)
    5.) If they are near your home, they can get through your screens and invade your home. (ACKKK!!!)
    6.) Lady Bugs don’t like them and kill/eat them (Lady Bugs are cool anyway!)
    7.) Often found on the underside of leaves in your garden…and if found you can spray a heavy stream of your water hose for several straight minutes to get them off (drown them boogers!)

    That’s what I’ve learned so far in the past 12 hours of research…other than the fact that I am tired!!!
    Hope this helps!

    Reply
    • Thanks for all the helpful information. It is easy to see how twelve hours of time can be consumed doing internet research, but if we did that with each request, we would only be able to post a few inquiries per week, so our editorial staff is very grateful for your dedication as well as your thoughtfulness in reporting your findings.

      Reply
    • What I have been dealing with is after a rain if I go outside no matter what I wear I have been getting bit like crazy but not my husband,so I went out and let them bite me so that I could prove it to him.
      I brought out a piece of tape with me and caught some to tape on white paper,I got a magnifying glass To prove I was getting ate up.
      They were a tiny orange dot size bug and I could see they would crawl through my clothing to get to my skin to bite me,I shook my hair over the paper and they were even in my hair but they have never bitten my head….it is crazy…what is it,I threw the paper away ?….

      Reply
  • Yes these are the thrips larvae and boy do they hurt! They are attracted to light/bright colored clothing. I was attacked by these little boogers tonight at my son’s baseball game. I’m the team mom and was in charge of taking care of both team’s scores/runs/outs etc, and I was being attacked by them. Trying to swat these things and pay attention to the game was extremely difficult! LOL
    It is almost 5am now, and I have been up all night trying to figure out what these things were.

    In my research, I have found that:
    1.) Peppermint/spearmint type of oils are a deterrent for these bugs. (At least it smells good!)
    2.) Off or other sprays AREN’T effective and seem to attract them. (Stuff stinks anyway LOL)
    3.) They are attracted to light/bright colored clothing (Great…I’m a girl and love light/bright colors)
    4.) Often are found near weeds, bright colored flowers, and wood (Ughh)
    5.) If they are near your home, they can get through your screens and invade your home. (ACKKK!!!)
    6.) Lady Bugs don’t like them and kill/eat them (Lady Bugs are cool anyway!)
    7.) Often found on the underside of leaves in your garden…and if found you can spray a heavy stream of your water hose for several straight minutes to get them off (drown them boogers!)

    That’s what I’ve learned so far in the past 12 hours of research…other than the fact that I am tired!!!
    Hope this helps!

    Reply
    • What I have been dealing with is after a rain if I go outside no matter what I wear I have been getting bit like crazy but not my husband,so I went out and let them bite me so that I could prove it to him.
      I brought out a piece of tape with me and caught some to tape on white paper,I got a magnifying glass To prove I was getting ate up.
      They were a tiny orange dot size bug and I could see they would crawl through my clothing to get to my skin to bite me,I shook my hair over the paper and they were even in my hair but they have never bitten my head….it is crazy…what is it,I threw the paper away ?….

      Reply
  • No problem =) I know I was miserable, and figured someone else probably needed the same advice that I found. I’m a sufferer of insomnia so this just helped me pass the time till I got tired.

    Reply
  • Thank you so much for posting this information! These little buggers are all OVER the frame of our above ground pool. So so so so gross ლ(ಠ益ಠ)ლ I know ya’ll are anti-extermination but …I’d really rather these things go away!…or at least back to my plants! Why can’t they at least leave me the pool? (ಠ_ಠ)

    Reply
    • We have a little baby pool, and the darn bugs had ran the kids out of it too! Since you have an above ground pool, maybe you could plant some peppermint around it to deter the bugs? Just a thought! Hope this helps Hon!

      Reply
  • I haven’t heard of those working, but I do know that the Off sprays (and Deep Woods, can’t remember the names of the other ones I’ve tried) only attract them. (Learned that one the hard way! )

    Reply
    • I’ve been googling my brains out ever since my mother suggested “mosquito grass”. She says it repels mosquitos. The info I’ve found says it gives off some kind of scent that the mosquitos hate. I’ve found Citronella, horsemint, marigolds, ageratum, catnip, basil and catmint. Supposedly, these are mosquito repelling plants. I still haven’t found anything actually called “mosquito grass”. I’m starting to think that might just be the general term for any type of grass that repels them. It won’t do anything for those little buggers crawling all over the pool… but I’ll throw in some peppermint plants for that! 🙂

      Reply
  • Peppermint spray does work. I have been using EcoSmart. You can find it at Wal-Mart. It’s Awesome, cheap and deet free. It saved my summer. =)

    Reply
  • The WonderPersonOfBugs
    April 1, 2016 2:52 am

    Thank you guys for asking all the questions I had as well… I work at a facility and they are in the cracks of the wall & floor… they do die right away when killing them… I usually can get a lot of them when I mop up the floor… How do I get rid of them…

    Reply
  • Have you found out what exactly they are? I think I have the same bug in my yard and they are driving me crazy and can’t figure out what they are!!!!!

    Reply
  • I have a bite from what I think is from this Thrip bug. Got it yesterday, doesn’t itch but burns constantly. It continues to swell and benadryl hasn’t eased the site. Any suggestions for treatment from the bite? It’s red and warm to the touch, swolen, and again, continues to swell.

    Reply
    • We are not qualified to dispense medical advice.

      Reply
    • I’m not qualified to dispense medical info either, but I have many many tiny itchy bumps after a swarm of these things took over my yard. I must be sensitive more than most, bc the rash seems to develop over a couple of days. I *did* go to the doctor yesterday, and it’s not a definitive diagnosis, but I’m using a prednisone pack (Rx only – you’ll have to see a doctor) which is a big hit over 4 days, tapering off. It’s helped but hasn’t resolved after one dose. BUT if it’s just ONE bite, you also want a doctor, bc I had lyme disease from something like that earlier this summer. It was about 4 inch diameter, swollen, but around a pinprick sized bite 🙁 Anyway, go to urgent care! (Benadryl wasn’t helping me either).

      Reply
    • Check kissing bug

      Reply
  • Janet Scheetz
    June 11, 2019 5:23 am

    I have had a tiny black bug in my house for 9mos. They are shaped like a pin prick and also shaped like an eel. They are in overstuffed furniture and beds etc. I haven’t been able to enjoy my house for all of these mos. I don’t see them outside, only outside, I have had two exterminations, countless cans of spray and I can’t touch them. I am desperate, any help will be appreciated.

    Reply
  • I have had an allergic reaction to what I believe are these thrip… and the reaction moves throughout my body externally and yesterday felt internally…(I know sounds CRAZY trust me I know but have a picture to prove what had happened over my face) but my throat swelled up..was breathing through my nose..couldn’t swallow..lost my voice.. after 6 hours and 3 Benadryl.. has anyone else experienced this? Is it only a certain age/sex of this bug that bites? And how on earth to you get rid of them?

    Reply
  • I thought i was loosing my mind!! After reading through every one of these posts, im 100% sure this is the bug that is…. in my hair, biting my arms, legs, FACE, feet, inside my bra, and recently i have started getting bites beneath my underwear!!!!!! I MUST FIND A WAY TO GET THEM OFF!! NOW!! im jumping into a really hot shower in hopes of drowning or scorching every last one of them!!!!!!!!! thank yall for your research and sharing. I was hoping someone had an answer for how to get them off of your body IMMEDIATELY!!

    Reply
    • I experience exactly the samething. I’m to the point feel like I’m going crazy, scratching all over my body, long welts all over. Can’t enjoy my place with the windows open for fresh air, cause they are getting in. Can’t sit still cuz they are biting & itching all over. It’s so frustrating that I want to burn my house down to burn these M.F.’s. Sorry no disrespect, that’s how they make me feel.. people think I’m crazy cuz they’re sitting right next to me & not feel anything. But when they see the welts & lesions developing all over face, arms, chest, back, legs, booty, yeah I said that even my derriere. right in front of their eyes. WOW… OMG..

      Reply

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