What Are Thrips Attracted To? Unveiling Their Top Preferences

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Thrips are tiny insects that can cause damage to a wide variety of plants, affecting both their appearance and overall health. These little pests are not only attracted to certain plants, but also specific environmental conditions.

You might notice thrips on your flowers in your garden, as they are particularly drawn to the vibrant colors and fragrances. They’re commonly found on plants such as gladiolus, roses, and other blossoms. Thrips can feed on the plant’s tissue, leaving behind discolored, distorted or damaged flowers and foliage.

In addition to being attracted to particular plants, thrips also prefer certain environmental conditions. They tend to thrive in dry and warm settings. By understanding what conditions and plants attract thrips, you’ll be better equipped to manage and prevent infestations in your garden.

Understanding Thrips

Species of Thrips

There are over 5,000 known species of thrips, and they belong to the order Thysanoptera. Some examples of common thrips species that affect plants include:

  • Western flower thrips
  • Onion thrips
  • Cuban laurel thrips
  • Greenhouse thrips

These tiny, cigar-shaped insects have fringed wings and can cause damage to cultivated plants by feeding or vectoring plant diseases. Some thrips are also predatory.

Life Cycle of Thrips

The life cycle of thrips includes four stages: egg, larvae or nymphs, pupae, and adult. Here is an overview of each stage:

  • Egg: Female thrips lay their eggs on plant tissue. The eggs are microscopic and difficult to see with the naked eye.

  • Larvae (Nymphs): Thrips larvae are wingless, whitish to yellowish in color, and are commonly found feeding on plant tissue. They undergo two larval stages before becoming pupae.

  • Pupae: This resting stage occurs before the larvae transform into adults. Pupae do not feed and can be found on the ground or sheltered areas such as leaf litter.

  • Adult: Adult thrips have two pairs of narrow, fringed wings. They are responsible for feeding, mating, and laying eggs, continuing the life cycle.

It is essential to understand the different stages of thrips’ life cycle to manage them effectively in your garden or greenhouse. You can implement control methods tailored to each stage and be better equipped to prevent infestations and maintain healthy plants.

Attractions for Thrips

Favorite Plants

Thrips are attracted to a variety of plants, especially those with flowers, leaves, and fruits that provide them with food and suitable living conditions. Some of their preferred plant hosts include:

  • Azalea
  • Rhododendron
  • Hibiscus
  • Petunia
  • Marigolds
  • Tomato

For example, thrips can be found on the leaves and flowers of azalea, as well as rhododendron. They can cause damage to the plant’s foliage, flowers, and fruits.

Aside from their favorite plants, thrips can also be found living in soil, where some species overwinter or await a new host plant to arrive in spring.

Color Preferences

Thrips are known to be attracted to certain colors, including:

  • Blue
  • White
  • Yellow

These color preferences are particularly relevant when it comes to flowers, as thrips are generally drawn to brightly colored blooms. However, it’s essential to consider that while thrips are attracted to these colors, this doesn’t mean they won’t be found on plants with flowers in different hues or on plants without flowers at all. It simply means that thrips may be more likely to be found on plants with blue, white, or yellow blooms than on those without.

Thrips Infestations

Signs and Symptoms

Thrips are tiny, slender insects that can cause significant damage to plants. One of the first signs of an infestation is the appearance of discolored or stippled leaves. This happens because thrips feed on plant sap, puncturing the outer layer of the foliage and causing a silvery discoloration.

You may also notice symptoms on flower petals, which can become discolored and deformed due to thrips feeding on them.

Infestation Effects

Infestations can have various negative effects on plants, including:

  • Damage to foliage, resulting in reduced photosynthesis and weakened plant health
  • Stunted growth or deformation of flower petals, affecting the plant’s ability to reproduce

To prevent thrips infestations, it’s crucial to regularly monitor your plants, carefully inspecting them for signs of damage or feeding. Implementing effective pest management strategies can help control and minimize the impact of thrips on your plants.

Common Thrip Habitats

Thrips are attracted to various environments where their preferred food sources and breeding grounds exist. Let’s explore some of their common habitats.


In your garden, thrips are attracted to a wide range of plants, especially those with colorful flowers. They can cause damage to your plants by feeding on them and transmitting viruses. To minimize the risk of thrips infestation in your garden:

  • Keep the area clean and free of debris.
  • Remove any heavily infested plants.
  • Encourage beneficial insects, like predatory mites and minute pirate bugs, to take up residence.


Thrips can easily infest greenhouses since they thrive in warm, humid conditions. They are particularly fond of densely planted and poorly ventilated greenhouses. To prevent thrips from becoming problematic in your greenhouse:

  • Regularly inspect your plants for signs of damage or infestation.
  • Maintain proper airflow and temperature to deter these pests.
  • Use sticky traps to detect and capture adult thrips.

Outdoor Plants

Thrips can also affect various outdoor plants, from trees and shrubs to vegetables and ornamental plants. Ensure that your landscaping practices promote healthy growth and minimize thrips’ attraction by:

  • Pruning plants to improve air circulation.
  • Reducing excessive watering or over-fertilizing.
  • Using natural pest management methods.

Debris, Ground, and Leaf Litter

Thrips lay their eggs in plant tissues, but they can also be found hiding in debris, on the ground, and in leaf litter. They use these areas to seek shelter and feed on decaying organic matter. To reduce the chances of harboring these pests:

  • Keep your garden area tidy by removing fallen leaves and other debris.
  • Avoid the accumulation of leaf litter by raking or using a leaf blower.
  • Consider incorporating ground covers or mulches that do not create ideal hiding spots.

By understanding and addressing the various common habitats of thrips, you can better protect your plants from these tiny pests and maintain a healthier garden, greenhouse, or outdoor space.

Thrip Reproduction and Generations

Thrips are tiny insects that can be a nuisance in your garden. They’re attracted to certain plants, especially those with bright colors and abundant pollen. But did you know that understanding their reproduction and generations can help you better manage them? Let’s take a closer look.

Thrips lay tiny, elongated eggs on plant tissue, often inserting them into leaves or flowers. The number of generations varies depending on the species and the environment they’re in. For example, the greenhouse thrips can have about five to six generations a year. This means that in the right conditions, thrips can reproduce quickly and become a persistent problem in your garden.

These insects feed on pollen, plant tissue, and even other small insects. When they feed, they can cause damage to your plants, like deformed buds or speckled leaves. One way to keep thrips at bay is by monitoring the pollen supply in your garden. Since thrips are attracted to pollen, reducing the number of plants with abundant pollen can help minimize their presence.

To wrap it up, here’s what you should keep in mind about thrip reproduction and generations:

  • Thrips lay eggs on plant tissues, and their reproduction rate depends on the species and environment.
  • Greenhouse thrips can have about five to six generations a year.
  • Thrips are attracted to pollen, so managing pollen sources in your garden can help control their population.

By understanding the way thrips reproduce and the number of generations they can have, you can take better preventive measures to protect your plants from these tiny pests.

Negative Impacts of Thrips

Diseases Transmitted by Thrips

Thrips are known to transmit various plant diseases. Two of the most common diseases they spread are Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus and Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus. These viruses can severely affect a wide range of crops, fruits, and herbaceous ornamental plants. You should pay special attention to preventing and controlling thrips since these diseases are often difficult to cure once they infect your plants.

Damage to Crops

Thrips can cause significant damage to various crops by puncturing the outer layer of their host plant’s tissue and sucking out its contents. Some of the crops that are most affected by thrips include onions, beans, and fruits like apples and oranges. Here’s a quick comparison of the main impact thrips have on each of these crops:


  • Thrips can cause distorted growth and uneven ripening.
  • They may lead to a reduction in size and overall yield.


  • Thrips can cause leaf distortion, curling, and discoloration.
  • They may significantly reduce bean yield and quality.


  • Thrips can cause scarring, russeting, and discolored patches on fruits.
  • They may lead to a reduction in fruit size, affecting its marketability and taste.

To protect your garden, keep an eye out for signs of thrips infestation. These insects are tiny and difficult to spot, but early detection and control can save your crops and ornamental plants from the negative impacts brought by thrips.

Predators of Thrips

Thrips are tiny, slender insects that can cause damage to plants and crops. Fortunately, there are several natural predators that can help control their population and reduce their impact on your garden. Some of these predators include lacewings, mites, wasps, pirate bugs, parasitic wasps, and minute pirate bugs.

Lacewings are effective predators of thrips. They are known to consume large numbers of thrips larvae, helping to keep their numbers in check. Adult lacewings and their larvae both feed on thrips, providing an added benefit to your garden ecosystem.

Mites like the Euseius predatory mite can also help manage thrips by attacking them and consuming their population. These tiny predators are essential in maintaining a natural balance within your garden.

Some wasps are also beneficial to your garden. For example, the Thripobius parasitic wasp is known for attacking greenhouse thrips larvae. They can be a valuable addition to your garden ecosystem, as they not only help manage thrips populations but also contribute to controlling other pests.

Pirate bugs and minute pirate bugs are another group of natural predators that feed on thrips. These small, fast-moving insects are known to consume a large number of thrips, helping to reduce their population in your garden.

Parasitic wasps, such as the Aeolothrips intermedius, play a crucial role in managing thrips populations. They target onion thrips in particular, making them a useful addition to your garden’s natural pest management system.

To sum up, incorporating these natural predators into your garden can go a long way in controlling thrips populations. Remember to maintain a diverse and balanced ecosystem, as it will encourage the thriving of beneficial insects and ensure a healthier garden overall.

Thrips Control and Management

Pesticides and Other Chemicals

To combat thrips, you can use chemical pesticides like pyrethrin, which is a natural insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers. It is effective against thrips and other pests, but here are some considerations:

  • Pros:

    • Fast-acting
    • Widely available
    • Relatively safe for humans and pets
  • Cons:

    • May harm beneficial insects
    • Thrips can develop resistance

Natural and Organic Remedies

For a more eco-friendly approach, consider using neem oil or insecticidal soap. Both are effective against thrips, but each has its pros and cons:

Remedy Pros Cons
Neem Oil – Natural
– Disrupts pest life cycle
– Low toxicity
– May harm beneficial insects
– May need frequent reapplication
Insecticidal Soap – Biodegradable
– Safe for humans and pets
– Targets only pests
– May require multiple applications
– Can cause leaf damage if used improperly

Monitoring and Integrated Pest Management

Implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy is ideal for thrips control. IPM involves a combination of methods, including monitoring, chemical control, and biological control. Start by using yellow sticky traps to monitor thrips populations.

Here are some tips for effective thrips monitoring:

  • Place traps near susceptible plants
  • Check traps regularly (daily or weekly)
  • Replace traps as needed (usually every month)

Incorporate biological control methods, such as releasing predatory mites, to help keep thrips populations in check. By combining different methods, you can achieve effective, long-term thrips control while minimizing negative effects on the environment.

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.


  • 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.

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Tags: Thrips

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