So, you have thrips inside your house. And you need to get rid of them.
That’s unpleasant. Thrips can destroy your plants.
Thankfully, you found this complete tutorial.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn:
- Signs of thrip damage in your home
- How to naturally get rid of thrips
- How to stop thrips from eating your plants
- Ways to keep thrips out of your home and garden
- Natural repellents for thrips
- And more
By the end of this guide, you should have a solid foundation to exterminate, repel, and control thrips.
Feel free to bookmark this page so you can refer back to it easily.
Sound good? Let’s get the thrips out of your house!
Last updated: 12/30/19.
What’s a thrip?
Thrips are a common outdoor pest that are found in greenhouses and gardens.
They’re destructive towards plants and will leave them pale, jagged, scarred, or even splotchy. There are over 6000 species of known thrips around the world.
Most people won’t notice them because they’re so small.
They’re only about 1/25 of an inch in length, which is hard to see without a lens. And they’re very fast and agile. Plus they can fly and jump, making them a very good escape artist.
Thrips will damage both outdoor and indoor plants. They infest plants in your yard and greenhouse plants. They can also damage household plants.
Thrips feed in large groups and are communal feeders, meaning that these pests eat together and can go through an entire plant quickly.
Thrips are also known as thunderbugs, storm flies, thunderblights, storm bugs, corn fleas, thunderflies, corn flies, corn lice, freckle bugs, physiopod, harvest bugs, woodworm, and terebrantia.
What do thrips look like?
Thrips are snakey, slender bugs that have small feathery wings.
They’re able to fly and often hang around plants outdoors in the garden.
You may see them in various colors, such as black, white, green, and clear (transparent) depending on their age and species.
You often can’t see a thrip unless you’re very quick to look.
They’re small and agile, so they can quickly dart off or jump and hop to another plant. If you see one, it mainly looks like a small black fly.
And if you happen to catch one, you can closely examine it to see the slender body and a pair of wings on the back.
They suck and extract nutrients from plants using their piercing mouthparts by releasing a needle into a plant. Then they suck out the sap and nutrients for themselves.
Thrips are considered a pest to plants because they can do lots of damage and eventually kill the plant.
They also show up in large numbers and have the ability to completely sap a plant’s necessary nutrients.
Young, baby thrips have no wings and existing a yellow coloration until they reach maturity.
What are thrips attracted to?
Thrips eat many garden plants and veggies, along with flowers.
They eat anything from carrots, squash, beans, gladioli, flowers, and more. They also seem to be attracted to colors blue, yellow, orange, and white.
So plants that flower with these colors may see more thrip damage compared to others. They’re not picky eaters and will eat whatever plants they can get ahold of.
Since they’re herbivores, there’s no specific plant they don’t like that can be used as a prevalent.
Thrips (thunderbirds) are attracted to plant sap and nutrients. They extract the sap with their piercing mouthpiece.
They’re especially fond of colorful flowering plants like ficus, roses, houseplants, orchids, dandelions, daisies, monstera, cactus, and succulents.
They also eat veggies like cucumbers, peas, roses, gladiolus, mullein, carrots, melons, onions, and beans.
Thrip life cycle
Thrips have a simple lifecycle.
The adult thrips mate before winter. Then the females lay their eggs. Up to 80 eggs are laid per clutch.
Female thrips actually use flowers or stems by inserting their eggs into the plant.
The eggs hatch within a few days during the spring and thrip nymphs are born.
They feed on plant sap and nutrients and slowly morph over two molts.
Thrips in the soil
Some thrips will fall off the plant and pupate in the soil. This is when you see larvae around the plant stem on the soil surface. These are thrip larvae.
Nymph to adult
After the larvae turn into adults, they fly out of the soil with a complete wingspan. It takes about 16 days for the whole process of an egg to adult thrip, so they can multiply quickly.
Adults and pupae overwinter in the soil to protect themselves from the cold.
Do thrips lay eggs in soil?
Adult thrips don’t lay eggs in the soil.
The female inserts the eggs into plant stems and flowers. When the eggs hatch, the larvae fall into the soil and feed on organic plant matter.
Adults will fly out after they’ve developed within the soil, so it may appear as if thrips lay eggs in the soil. But in reality, the larvae dropped from the plant to the soil.
Where do thrips live?
Thrips are found on outdoor plants. They prefer plants that are flowering with plenty of sap to extract.
However, if you find a thrip inside your home, chances are that it caught a ride on you, your pets, your kids, or your laundry. It’s also possible for a trip to infest your home.
All it takes is just a few of them and they rapidly breed and multiple. This makes these little black flies appear out of nowhere overnight.
Thrips leave larvae and these will crawl on the surface of the soil around plants both indoors and outdoors. If you have thrips inside on your houseplants, check for larvae on the soil surface closely.
They should be easy to see against darker soils.
If thrips find their way into your home, they’ll eat your houseplants as a source of food. They may also feed on vegetables and fruits you have out, as they’re herbivores and eat plant matter.
Can thrips infest your home?
Yes, thrips can easily infest your home if they manage to get inside.
Once they find a way into your house, they’ll find a suitable houseplant to eat and nest on. They’ll suck the nutrients from your houseplants and breed.
The larvae crawl on the soil and eventually become adults, which will repeat the cycle once they breed again.
Thrips will quickly breed and multiply inside the home, so they’re a pest you should handle right away.
Black thrips in the house
If you have black thrips or tiny black flies in your home, you’ll want to inspect your house plants.
Thrips only eat plants, so they’re likely eating houseplants, veggies, or fruits you may have around the house.
So the best place to start is to inspect your own indoor plants for thrips.
What part of the plant to do they attack?
Thrips will attack all parts of the plant but mainly focus on the pollen, flowers, leaves, buds, fruits, stems, and twigs.
These bugs are phytophages, which means they feed on plants exclusively by focusing on a few specific parts.
What does thrip damage look like?
You’ll often see plants that exhibit the following symptoms from thrip damage:
- Wilted leaves
- Pale or damaged leaves
- Stems that have holes
- Larvae in the soil
- Damaged plant stems
- Visible thrips that fly away when you approach
Are thrips bad?
Thrips can spread the wilt virus disease for tomato plants, which results in wilted and poorly grown tomatoes.
They can also transfer the spot virus for impatiens, which shows dead spots on impatiens.
Other than spreading disease, they’ll also feast on your vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Since they’re a communicable pest, you’ll often see a lot of them.
This means that they can rapidly destroy and kill your plants since there are so many thrips at once.
Do thrips (thunderbugs) bite?
Thrips can bite humans, as they have an elongated needle as their mouthpiece. They may fly around the home and land on human skin and occasionally bite.
The bite doesn’t cause any rash, bite marks, swells, or welts. However, if you’re sensitive to bug bites or have other allergies, you should consult a professional.
If you have thrips in the yard, you may get bitten especially if you disturb them.
Since there are so many of them that feast on a plant simultaneously, you may end up getting bitten when rustling plants outdoors. Indoor thrips can also bite, so it’s imperative that you remove houseplants that are infested with thunderbugs and clean them.
Do they have diseases?
Thrips are not known to transmit any diseases to humans, but they have been shown to transfer viruses between plants.
How to get rid of thrips inside the house
There are many DIY remedies you can do to naturally or organically get rid of thrips.
Here we’ll cover some of the most effective methods you can do at home. If they don’t work, consider hiring a professional as the pests can be hard to control.
Here are some of the best ways to get rid of thrips.
Will soapy water kill thrips?
Yes, soapy water has been shown to be an effective thrip killer. This is a safe and natural way to get rid of thrips in your home.
All you need is a few drops of dish soap with a cup of water. Pour into a spray bottle and then spray it directly onto the thrips.
Since they’re so small, you should spray the entire plant just to make sure you get them.
You should always test the dish soap on a small part of the plant first before using it on the entire thing.
Some plants are sensitive to insecticidal soap, so give it about two days to check for damage. If the plant is okay, then spray the whole thing. If you see plant damage, add more water to dilute the DIY pesticide and test it again. The soap kills thrips upon contact.
Reapply every other day for one month until the thrips are gone. This may take time because thrips are constantly breeding.
Can I use Dawn to make insecticidal soap?
You can use Dawn to make your own DIY bug soap, but any dish detergent works.
Need oil is an essential oil that can be very effective in pest control. Neem kills thrips upon contact and can be bought at apothecaries.
You just need a few drops (1-2 drops) per gallon of water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and then spray the tiny black flies with the pesticide. They’ll be killed right away.
Some plants are sensitive to neem, so make sure you test it first on a single leaf.
Also, avoid using neem in direct sunlight because it can burn the plant. If you’re using neem oil outdoors, avoid during daytime hours. If you use it indoors, be sure to move the plant out of direct sunlight.
Plants also need to be rinsed with water after you spray with neem. So after about 20 minutes or so, take the plant under the hose and spray it to rinse off the neem oil and thrips. This is important to avoid attracting other pests who eat dead bugs.
You can use water to get rid of thrips on your houseplants. Take the plants outdoors and spray them down with a stream from a powerful hose.
The water will blast the thrips off and also hydrate the plant. If you’re outdoors, just spray your plants with a nozzle and wash away the thrips.
They drown from the excess water and will also get hosed off. Spray your plants every few days until the thrips are completely gone.
DE can dehydrate thrips and kill them over time.
You can sprinkle some on the surface of the plant soil. Thrips that come into contact with the DE will dehydrate their exoskeleton.
You can sprinkle it around the perimeter of the oil and also make a ring around the plant stem.
This will make sure that any thrip who crosses the DE to eat the plant will get DE on their exoskeleton.
Diatomaceous earth can be purchased at any department store and is safe in small quantities.
You should still keep kids and pets away from it as it can cause irritation. Wear gloves when handling DE. Also wear a protective mask and clothing.
You can buy or make your own sticky traps at home to catch thrips.
You wrap them around plant stems or leaves and when the thrips walk on them, they get stuck and die. Traps are easy to set up and safe for plants.
Opt for blue sticky traps, as thrips are attracted to the color blue. Use as directed.
Use sticky traps to catch thrips in your home by sticking them around your house plants.
Pyrethrin is a short-term pesticide that’s commercially available. You can buy many different varieties of it.
You’re not buying pyrethrin by itself- it comes as an active ingredient in many different forms of bug spray. Look for a spray that’s organic or all-natural and use it as directed.
Pyrethrin kills thrips and is an effective measure against the home to reduce their numbers.
Attract natural thrip predators
Some bugs will eat thrips and you can use them to help you clean up your infestation.
There are two ways to go about this depending on your situation.
If you have thrips outdoors
Consider attracting natural predators that feed on thrips to your yard.
How do you do this? You read search which native species are in your area and see what it takes to bring more of them to your yard.
The most common bugs that eat thrips across the US are pirate bugs, ladybugs, and lacewings.
You should be able to attract at least one of those common beneficial bugs to your yard to help manage the thrip population.
If you have thrips indoors
You can actually buy a mini greenhouse for your houseplants.
You place the plant into the small greenhouse and unleash a bug to help “clean up” the thrip problems.
How does this work? Simple. You buy ladybugs, lacewings, or pirate bugs in bulk.
You put your houseplant that has thrips into the greenhouse. Then you release the predators into the same container contained environment.
Over time, the beneficial eat thrips and their larvae until there are no more of them left. Then your plant is purged of thrips and clean.
Thrips in the pool
If you have thrips in your swimming pool, it can be very difficult to get rid of them. Plus, they bite, which means that you may get bitten when you go swimming.
You may see thrips along the edge and perimeter of your pool and on the pool steps or sun shelf.
To get rid of them, you should start with fly tape. Get the blue sticky traps and adhere to them to areas where you see a lot of thrips.
Also, consider spraying the area using neem oil as a natural thrip repellent. Thrips come out after they emerge from the soil or after rain.
Both of these will bring a bunch of them to your pool.
Remember that thrips are usually temporary and leave after a period of time. You can use natural repellents, traps, and natural predators to help deal with them until they leave.
You can also manually remove them with a cloth. Spray the cloth with rubbing alcohol and wipe them off. The alcohol kills thrips. Wear protective gloves and clothing as thrips can bite.
Control thrips organically
If you need to get rid of thrips organically, there are a few things you can do.
Use essential oils
Most essential oils are organic and you can make your own thrip killer at home by mixing a gallon of water and 1-2 drops of oil.
There are many out there to choose from, but neem and peppermint oil seem to be effective against thrips. Make the solution and then pour some into a spray bottle.
Then spray it directly onto your plants that have thrips. It should kill them upon contact and also act as an organic repellent.
Don’t be afraid to adjust the concentration of the oil by adding more drops. As with any oil, take precaution and use as directed. Some people or pets may be sensitive to certain oils. Always do your research.
Use sticky traps
Sticky traps can be purchased in organic variants, meaning they only use organic pesticides to catch thrips. Most traps are “organic” already because when the thrip lands on the trap, it can’t escape.
So there’s no danger of the thrips transferring chemical residues to your plants unless the trap is poor quality.
But if you’re concerned, opt for a sticky trap that only uses natural or organic residues.
Just like the other techniques, using a portable vacuum can be an organic way to control thrips.
Just suck them up and put the vacuum in reverse to dispose of them.
You’ll want to unleash them into a contained bottle or bucket filled with rubbing alcohol to kill them.
Use a shop vac for this, as traditional vacuums don’t have a reverse option.
Use ladybugs or lacewings
Using these bugs to eat thrips will help manage the thrip problem organically.
You can buy ladybugs for cheap in bulk as a beneficial bug. You can also use lacewings or pirate bugs.
Thrips on plants
If you have thrips on your plants, you can use any of the above approaches to get rid of them naturally.
Thrips on monstera is common.
You can get rid of them by using a combination of neem oil, which will kill thrips upon contact. Make your own neem oil spray (1-2 drops per gallon of water) and apply it every other day.
Rinse your plant after using the oil, as neem can burn the plant. Repeat this until the thrips are gone.
You have to clean off the dead thrips after every time you spray, so be sure to do that or risk attracting other pests.
Vacuuming them off with a small handheld vacuum also works well.
Vacuum your plant and all nearby areas where thrips are congregating. Check places such as under pots, around windows, on countertops, etc. this will help bring the population down.
You can also sprinkle DE to dehydrate thrip larvae. Use a small amount on the soil around the plant.
Use it at the base of the plant to form a ring around the monstera stem. This will force any thrip larvae to crawl through the DE which will eventually kill them.
The process is the same as any other plant. You can start the process by using neem oil by making your own spray (see the above section “how to get rid of thrips naturally” for tips.
Apply the spray every other day and clean the plant after you spray it. You need to rinse the plant. It’s very important you don’t leave thrips on it or else you’ll attract other bugs to eat the dead thrips.
Also, vacuum the plant for manual removal, and sprinkle a ring of diatomaceous earth around the plant stem directly on the soil.
There are a few techniques to deter thrips. The easiest is to use a commercial approach, such as a bracelet that’s made with 100% DEET.
This should only be used temporarily, as long-term exposure to DEET can be harmful.
You can use a DEET repellent or spray if you need to take a hike or camp in an area with thrips. Use as directed.
Broad-spectrum pesticides also tend to work well against thrips. Get a natural or organic repellent if possible.
Here are some helpful resources that you can check out:
Did you get rid of the thrips in your home?
Well, there you have it. You now have everything you need to know to get started.
This should be a good foundation to start getting rid of these pests. If you have any questions, leave a comment below.
Or if you found this helpful, let me know also =]!
Tell a friend who may be having the same problems with thrips.
Thanks for reading!
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.