Thrips are tiny, slender bugs that primarily feed on fungi and plants. They are not considered dangerous to humans, and are not known to spread diseases – but that doesn’t mean they can’t bite!
Thrips bites don’t usually result in anything worse than minor, temporary skin irritation, which can usually be alleviated with a quick wash in warm, soapy water. Even so, insect bites are never fun. So, how can you recognize thrips bites, and how can you stop these bugs from biting you?
What are thrips?
Thrips are tiny, slender insects that are found all over the world. There are around 6000 known species of thrips, many of which feed on fungi. Some thrips species also feed on plants, and others are predators of other, very small insects and arthropods. Though many thrips species have narrow, fringed wings, they are weak fliers, and often get from place to place by drifting along on air currents.
Do thrips bite humans?
Although most species of thrips feed on fungi and plants, both the adult and larval stages of these insects can occasionally bite humans.
Thrips have specially-adapted mouthparts to pierce plants and suck out the sap, and these can also break the skin (though thrips aren’t known to drink blood).
Thrips bites are most likely to occur outdoors, and they may also affect pets.
Are thrips bites dangerous?
Thrips are not considered dangerous to humans, and their bites are not known to transmit any diseases to humans or animals.
For most people, bites from thrips cause nothing more than a little local itching and a pink-ish, dotted rash at the site of the bite. In most cases, there will be no pain or swelling. However, some people report feeling a sharp, stinging pain when bitten and severe skin irritation, which may include:
- Raised lesions at the site of the bite
- A blotchy rash around the bitten area
- Redness at the site of the bite
People with allergies to bug bites may experience a more severe reaction that requires medical attention. If you experience severe pain, swelling or inflammation after being bitten by thrips, seek the advice of a medical professional.
Do thrips bites need special care?
Thrips bites don’t require any special treatment as, in most cases, they only result in mild, temporary itching. However, you can reduce irritation by washing the affected area with warm, soapy water.
How to recognize thrips bites
Thrips bites are not usually serious. In most cases, they result in a pink-ish dotted area at the site of the bites. More rarely, they may cause more pronounced redness, welts, or lesions.
Thrips are so tiny that they can be hard to spot with the naked eye. This makes it difficult to determine whether they are the cause of your bites, but you can always check the plants in your garden for thrips.
One easy way to do this is to give your plants a brisk shake over a sheet of white paper, which will catch any falling bugs and make them easier to identify. Yellow sticky paper is also an effective way to trap and identify thrips in your backyard.
How to stop thrips from biting you
Control the thrips
If you have thrips in your garden, the occasional bite may be the least of your worries. Thrips can cause extensive damage to a wide range of plants and may lead to premature leaf drop, stippling or leaves, discoloration of flowers and fruits, and stunted plant growth.
You can avoid bites both to yourself and your plants by getting your thrips population under control. Monitor the situation closely using yellow sticky tape while you take the following control measures:
- Spread reflective mulch
Reflective mulch can help to deter thrips, aphids, leafhoppers and whitefly from landing on your plants.
- Use biological control methods
Thrips have several natural enemies, including predatory thrips, green lacewings, minute pirate bugs, mites, and some species of parasitic wasps.
- Cover your plants
Covering young plants with a fine mesh can help to protect them from thrips and other garden pests.
- Use an insecticide
Chemical insecticides can be harmful to wildlife and other non-target, insect species, and should only be used as a last resort. However, if your thrips are out of control, there are insecticidal products and sprays available that may help to reduce their numbers.
Wear bug repellent
The best way to stop bugs from biting you is to use an insect repellent spray. Concoctions that contain DEET or permethrin will keep all insects off your skin including thrips, mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and flies. If you would rather use a natural product, sprays that contain essential oils (such as lemon eucalyptus oil) can also be effective.
Wear long, loose-fitting clothing
Long, loose-fitting clothing creates a reliable barrier between bugs and your skin, and can help to prevent all kinds of insect bites. They can also help to keep you cool on hot days, so this may be the perfect way to stay safe from bugs while enjoying your garden.
Thrips can bite humans, but they are not known to spread diseases. In most cases, thrips bites only cause temporary, minor itching and skin irritation. If your thrips bites are bothering you, you can relieve the symptoms by washing the affected area in warm, soapy water.
Thrips bites may be potentially dangerous for people with an allergy to insect bites so, if you experience severe irritation or inflammation, seek medical attention immediately.
Thrips bites are most likely to occur outdoors, so they best way to prevent them is to wear long, loose-fitting clothing and insect-repellent spray. If you have a lot of thrips in your garden, you may want to consider implementing control measures – if not for your own sake, then for the sake of your plants!
You can deter thrips from setting up home in your garden by encouraging the presence of natural predators (such as predatory thrips, green lacewings, and minute pirate bugs), covering young plants with a mesh barrier, and spreading reflective mulch on your flowerbeds.