A closer inspection through a magnifying glass confirms a worrying infestation of plant-feeding thrips. If you are an organic gardener, there are many natural ways to get rid of this pest problem.
Thrips damage results in scarred and discolored plants with pale, silvery patches on the leaves. Leaf spots may also appear white or yellow speckled. Moreover, the critters may also infest your home.
Here’s how to get rid of thrips naturally.
1. Soap and Water
A quick and easy home remedy to get rid of thrips on monstera, roses, hibiscus, orchids, tomatoes, and other plants is soap and water.
Dilute 5 tablespoons of liquid soap in a gallon of water. Dish soap is fine but it’s best to use one that is organic.
Shake well and spray the homemade solution all over indoor or greenhouse plants. For outdoor plants, a pump sprayer may work better if the infestation is far along.
You can also pour any leftover soapy water around the base of plants to kill off the developing nymphs (larvae).
One of the best ways to kill thrips on plants is with the use of spinosad. This biological insecticide is made by a naturally occurring bacterium found in the soil.
Spinosad is usually combined with other compounds and sold in a dilutable liquid form. Use it for the control of thrip bugs and other soft-bodied garden pests.
3. Neem Oil
Neem oil is a natural pest repellent that is effective against small soft-bodied insects, including thrips. Besides, it has an additional use as a fungicide.
To use neem oil for thrips, combine 2 teaspoons of liquid soap with 4 teaspoons of neem oil and a gallon of water. Shake well and spray this DIY thrip spray directly on the critters to kill them.
4. Diatomaceous Earth
A tried and true method of dealing with a multitude of insect pests in the house and garden is using diatomaceous earth.
Diatomaceous earth is sharp and abrasive to the exoskeleton of many insects. It has a dehydrating effect, perfect for getting rid of thrips naturally.
Sprinkle it around plants and spread it on the soil, in pots, or on the lawn over the winter to disrupt the pests’ life cycle. However, after rain or watering the garden, you will need to reapply it.
Use food-grade diatomaceous earth to get rid of thrips inside the house and other personal indoor spaces. Regular grade is ideal for outdoor garden use.
5. Sticky Traps
Another common pest control method you can use for controlling thrips organically is sticky traps. Different colors attract different types of insect pests (blue and yellow for thrip insects).
These can be purchased readily from garden centers, shops, and online. Besides, they are easy to hang near any infected plants — inside or outside the house.
These critters and other insects will immediately become stuck to the traps and die rapidly without a food source. Afterward, dispose of the strips with the pests.
PyGanic is an excellent organic insecticide for thrips and other insect pests. It contains pyrethrins, compounds derived from some chrysanthemum flowers.
Pyrethrin is usually combined with other ingredients and is available in commercial sprays. However, look at labels to be sure of an organic product.
7. Natural Predators
One of the successes of organic gardening is in being able to attract natural enemies.
These include lacewings and mites, but the star of these predators is the ladybug. Although small and pretty, the lady beetle is a merciless killer of many garden pests. Moreover, the thrips predator (Cucumeris) eats thrip eggs and larvae.
Pollen and nectar also make up the diet of some of these creatures. Therefore, planting attractive flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums will invite these helpers to your garden.
8. Essential Oils
A few drops of essential oil such as peppermint, lemongrass, rosemary, etc., diluted with water is a powerful spray against all types of bad bugs and insects.
A standard recipe is to combine 1 to 2 ounces of essential oil with a gallon of water. Spraying the plants thoroughly should kill the pests on contact.
Making use of your vacuum is a smart way to prevent thrips from taking over. The critters are so lightweight that gusts of wind transport them from plant to plant.
Therefore, it is relatively easy to remove them with a vacuum cleaner that will suction them into a disposable dust bag.
Running a small hand-held vacuum gently along and under the stems and leaves of plants will draw up large numbers of the pests.
10. Eliminate Grass and Weeds
Keeping a clean garden is one way of reducing infestations from unwanted insects. As a result, regular cutting and weeding, and clearing up dead leaves or debris will help keep the numbers down.
11. Kaolin Clay
This natural mineral leaves a grainy residue when applied onto leaves and fruits, which thrips cluster around. However, it must be mixed with water and applied with a sprayer.
The critters pierce into plants and suck the sap, causing a great deal of damage. Therefore, kaolin clay will help deter them from feeding in this way.
This organic thrips treatment works great for houseplants as well as those on the outside.
Regular pruning to cut off infested plant parts is another home remedy for thrips control. Besides, pest thrips can cause damage to leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits, so an infestation might require heavy pruning.
13. Use the Hose
A simple DIY method for getting rid of thrips is to use the hose.
These tiny insects are not good flyers and find it even more difficult in moist air. As a result, using the hose to produce a fine mist can restrict their movement.
14. Pest-Repelling Plants
Plants that repel thrips include basil, marigolds, and garlic. If possible, plant these in your garden to help keep the critters away.
There are at least 4,500 species of thrips, also called thunderbugs, storm flies, or thunderflies, recorded today, and possibly the number is even higher. Moreover, some are beneficial in that they kill and eat other pests, but most are a nuisance to gardeners.
Additionally, thrips bites are not dangerous as they will not transmit any disease to humans or animals.
The pest ranges in color from black, yellow, brown, or translucent white. Using these natural methods to control them may mean that you will be able to enjoy vibrant plants again.