Thrips are tiny black bugs on houseplants, and they can be extremely annoying. In this post, you’ll learn all about thrips: their life cycle, where they come from, what they eat, damage they cause, and much more. Then I’ll show you exactly how to get rid thrips on indoor plants naturally, and prevent them from ever coming back.
Finding thrips on houseplants is very disheartening. Not only are they irritating, they can cause major damage to your indoor plants.
A common pest outside in the garden, sometimes thrips can get indoors and infest your houseplants. If you have any experience trying to get rid of bugs on houseplants, then you know just how frustrating it can be.
Thrips multiply very quickly, and they can crawl or fly, making them difficult to control. They could easily move around to infest your entire houseplant collection in a short time.
Don’t worry, I’m here to help! Below you’ll learn all about thrips, their life cycle, feeding habits, the signs to watch out for, and natural treatment methods, so you can eliminate them as fast as possible.
Here’s what you’ll find in this guide for how to get rid of thrips on indoor plants…
What Are Thrips?
Thrips are tiny, slender bugs that suck the sap out of leaves, stems, buds, and flowers of houseplants, causing them to look faded or dirty.
If you look closely, you’ll find these small bugs crawling all around the tops or undersides of the leaves of an infested houseplants.
Since they are so little, they’re difficult to see at first glance. But once you spot them, it’s pretty easy to make a positive ID.
What Do Thrips Look Like?
Thrips have long, skinny bodies that are narrow in the middle. They also have slender, pointy tails, long antennas on their head, and wings on their backs (which are barely noticeable).
Adult thrips on houseplants will probably be black, but they could also be brown, white, or greenish-yellow in color. They can fly, but they aren’t great at it. So it’s very unlikely that you’ll see them buzzing around indoor plants.
Baby thrips, called nymphs, are minute and much more difficult to see. They look like miniature wingless adults, and are usually white, greenish-yellow or almost transparent in color.
Thrip eggs are so small that they are barely visible to the naked eye. So it’s pretty unlikely that you will see any of those, but it’s possible.
Thrips Life Cycle
Before learning how to get rid of thrips on houseplants, it’s important to understand their life cycle. Basically, there are three main stages of a thrips life cycle: eggs, nymphs, and adult.
In the right conditions, thrips can multiple very, very quickly. Their entire life cycle (from egg to adult) can take as little as two weeks.
The good news is that the adults only live for a month or so. However, there can be several generations going on at the same time.
Even worse, some of them can reproduce asexually. Which means, they don’t need a mate in order to multiply. Yikes!
Where Do Thrips Come From?
Most of the time, thrips will come in on the leaves of houseplants that spent the summer outdoors, or when you bring home a new indoor plant from the store.
Since they are a very common garden pest, thrips could also hitch a ride inside on cut flower or veggies that you bring in from the garden.
They are also very tiny, and the adults can fly. So it is possible that thrips could come in through open doors and window screens. Learn more about where houseplant pests come from here.
What Houseplants Do Thrips Eat?
Thrips feed on many types of plants, so be prepared to find them on any of your houseplants. They suck the sap out of the leaves, stems, flowers, and flower buds.
Both the nymphs and the adults can feed on indoor plants. They usually start on the undersides of the leaves, which means you probably won’t notice them until the population has grown very large.
Thrips Damage On Houseplants
Usually the first sign of thrip damage is faded or dirty looking leaves. The leaves will start by turning white or grayish in color, then eventually brown as the damaged areas start to die.
Though it’s possible for thrips to kill a houseplant, it’s rare. Mature, healthy houseplants can handle a pretty heavy infestation. The biggest threat is to small or weak houseplants.
However, not only is a thrip infestation gross, they make your indoor plants look terrible, and heavy damage can stunt their growth. Other common symptoms include:
- Brown stripes on the leaves
- Faded, splotchy, pale-colored leaves
- Parts of the leaves are dying
- Flower buds are malformed, dropping, or won’t open
- Leaves start dropping unexpectedly
- New growth is deformed
If your houseplants are showing any of these signs, then it’s time to take a closer look to check for an infestation. Be sure to look underneath the leaves too!
How To Get Rid Of Thrips On Houseplants
The good news is that you absolutely can get rid of thrips on houseplants for good, and prevent them from ever coming back! Woohoo!
However, do not attempt to use any chemical or synthetic pesticides on them. Thrips can build up an immunity to chemicals very quickly, which will only end up making your problem much worse.
So always be sure to stick with using organic thrips treatment methods. Not only do they work much better, you don’t have to worry about using any nasty chemicals inside your home. Yeah!
Organic Thrips Treatment Methods
The first thing you should do as soon as you spot thrips on a houseplant is to quarantine the infested plant immediately. Then check all of the surrounding houseplants for signs of thrips, and isolate any others you may find.
Make sure that you begin treating the infestation right away. Also, to help prevent thrips from spreading, always wash your hands after handling an infested houseplant.
Below is a list of the best organic methods for getting rid of thrips on indoor plants. Whatever methods you choose to use, you must be persistent. You can’t treat for thrips one time, and expect them to go away forever.
Rinse The Leaves
If you can, take your houseplant outside, and rinse the leaves with the hose. That will remove many of the bugs, and quickly knock down their population.
You could rinse the leaves in the sink or shower instead, and that will work too. Be sure to use tepid water, and take care not to overwater your houseplant in the process.
Be sure to spray it directly on the infested leaves to kill the bugs. Insecticidal soap doesn’t have any kind of residual effect, so it’s important to treat them often in order to completely get rid of thrips.
Always test any type of sprays on a few leaves first to make sure there’e no damage before treating the entire houseplant.
Wash Your Houseplant
You could also try washing the leaves with diluted mild liquid soap, and rinse it off with water. This will kill thrips as well, and help to quickly get the population under control.
Make sure you wash the undersides of leaves too, that’s where thrips like to hide. But before washing all of the leaves, it’s best to test the soap on a few first, to make sure it doesn’t damage your houseplant.
One of my favorite products to use is neem oil. It’s a naturally occurring insecticide, and also has a residual effect that will help to deter future infestations.
Spray a neem oil solution directly on the leaves and stems. This will kill some of the bugs on contact, and others will die when they feed on the neem oil covered leaves. Learn how to use neem oil on houseplants here.
Using sticky traps is also a great way to monitor for future infestations, so you can detect them much faster. Or to check for the presence of thrips on other houseplants.
How To Prevent Thrips On Indoor Plants
Thrips can be difficult to get rid of. So, once you finally win the battle, you want to prevent them from ever coming back! Am I right?
The good news is that there are a few easy ways to prevent thrips from infesting your houseplants…
- Monitor them on a regular basis for the first signs of an infestation (I do this every time I water)
- Debug all of your plants before bringing them back inside for the winter
- Keep anything that you bring in from your garden (cut flowers, veggies…etc) far away from your houseplants
- Inspect all new houseplants before bringing them home, then quarantine them for a few weeks afterward
FAQs About Thrips
Below I will answer a few of the most commonly asked questions about thrips. If you still have a question after reading through all of this, then ask it in the comments below. I will get it answered as soon as I can.
Do thrips bite people?
Yes, thrips can bite. However, their bites usually only cause very minor irritation. I’ve had them on my indoor plants, and have never been bitten. Well, at least not that I’ve ever noticed.
Are thrips harmful to humans?
No, they are not harmful to humans or pets. However, they can bite, as I mentioned in the previous question.
Do thrips fly?
Yes. Many species of thrips have wings as adults, and they can fly. However, it’s not very common to see houseplant thrips flying around. They tend to crawl as their main mode of transportation, rather than flying.
How do you know if you have thrips on houseplants?
The first sign of a thrip infestation is gray or dull colored leaves, or leaves with brown spots or stripes. Heavy infestations can cause malformed and stunted growth, as well as leaf or bud drop. See the “Thrips Damage Symptoms” section above for more details.
Do thrips live in soil?
No, thrips do not live in houseplant soil. Those are likely fungus gnats, and here’s how to get rid of them.
How long do thrips live?
Adult thrips only live for about a month.
Getting rid of thrips on houseplants can take some time, but it is possible! Just remember to be persistent with your treatments, and be sure to take the proper precautions to prevent thrips from ever coming back.
If you’re tired of battling bugs on your indoor plants, then you need my Houseplant Pest Control eBook! It has everything you need in order to successfully get rid of any type of indoor plant bugs. Download your copy today!
More About Houseplant Pests
- How To Get Rid Of Scale Insects On Houseplants
- How To Get Rid Of Whiteflies On Indoor Plants
- How To Keep Cats Out Of Houseplants
Share you tips for getting rid of thrips on houseplants in the comments section below.