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There are 7,400 species of thrips in the world
and quite a few are serious pests of plants. Some
of the more commonly known thrips are Greenhouse
thrip (Heliothrips haemorrhoidalis), Western Flower
Thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) and Plague thrips
(Thrips imaginis). Thrips are 0.5mm – 15 mm
long and range in colour from white to yellow to
black. Thrips generally have wings that are fringed
but this can only be seen with magnification. Thrips
attack the flowers, fruit and foliage of a variety
of plants. Roses, fruit trees, azaleas, gladioli
and a variety of vegetables such as tomatoes, onions
and beans all suffer from thrip attacks. Thrips
lay eggs inside plant tissue and the pupae feed
on plant juices. Thrips also lay eggs in unopened
buds making it difficult to control the insect.
Thrips also spread plant viruses; for example tomato
thrips and western flower thrips spread the tomato
spotted wilt virus.
Thrips scrape the surface of the leaves and petals,
and suck the sap, leaving a white mottled appearance
on leaves. Other symptoms are browning on petals
and fruit, and flower drop. If left unchecked the
leaves, new shoots and flowers will become deformed
and stunted. Wilting and browning can also occur.