Thrip, line drawing. Thrips belong to the Order Thysanoptera.
- Andrew Howells
- © Australian Museum
What do thrips look like?
- 0.5 mm -15 mm in length but most are shorter than 5 mm.
- Cigar-shaped, column-like or widest at wing attachment (wide shoulders), with abdomen tapering.
- Flattened as if pressed from above.
- Head square or rectangular-like.
- Appears soft or hard.
- Bead-like or thread-like.
- Never longer than body.
- Very small or large.
- Moderately separated.
- For piercing, scraping and sucking.
- Two pairs, if present.
- Both pairs thin with no more than three veins.
- Margins entirely or partially lined with long hairs.
- At rest, wings held flat over body and either overlapping or held alongside each other.
- Six legs, short and stocky.
- Adhesive bladders expand from last tarsal (toe) segment.
- Cerci (tails) absent.
- Last segment of abdomen may be long and tubular, with a ring of long hairs at the tip.
Where are thrips found?
- On leaves, and fruit.
- On flower heads where they may spend their entire life.
- Axils of grasses, leaves and flower stalks.
- Under bark and among leaf litter, moss and fungi.
- Some live in galls or shelters made by folding leaves. Galls maybe constructed by the thrip or more likely by another insect group.
What do thrips do?
- Most thrips are solitary, though they may form large groups in areas where preferred food sources are minimal.
- Some form colonies in galls or folded leaf-shelters.
- When disturbed they run or fly away.
- Their flight activity is often associated with a change in weather (hence common name 'thunder flies').
- Some flightless species are small enough to be dispersed by wind.
- Most are plant feeders feeding on leaves, pollen, nectar, flowers, fruits and young shoots of trees and shrubs.
- They tend to feed by sucking up juices created after rasping surfaces.
- They may also feed by piercing and sucking out internal juices or eat items whole such as pollen.
- Other thrips feed on fungal spores hyphae.
- Some are predators. Thrip predators prey on eggs, larvae or even the adults of a variety of insects, mites and nematodes.
- Some are pests to crops (mostly introduced species).
- They are active during the day or night. Some night active species are attracted to light.
What looks similar?
- Not readily mistaken due to unique appearance and lifestyle.