NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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Chilli thrips, Scirtothrips dorsalis, are about the size of our native flower thrips (about 1/16 inch long), but are pale cream rather than amber. This species has dark gray eyes and the antennae are smokey gray beyond the base. Males are slightly smaller and paler than females. Under a microscope, the most notable character are the fringed or feather-like wings. The delicate egg is inserted completely into the plant tissue. The egg is cylindrical and kidney-shaped, with a smooth pale or yellow surface. Immature chilli thrips are whitish and resemble adults except for size, lack of wings, and red eyes. Prepupae are pale and have wing buds and antennae that are to the side or front of the head. Pupae are also pale and have longer wing buds and antennae that bend back over the head. Chilli thrips is a major pest in Florida, but it can be carried for hundreds of miles on weather fronts, so it is not surprising to see this thrips here in North Carolina, especially late in the growing season. This species probably cannot survive our winters.

Chilli thrips

Chilli thrips are small, pale, and agile.

Male chilli thrips

Male chilli thrips are smaller than females.

Immature chilli thrips

Immature chilli thrips are extremely small and pale.

Host Plants

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Chilli thrips have been reported from hundreds of plant species in at least 40 plant families. They seem to be especially attracted to rose and peppers. Their feeding on foliage and flowers causes distortion, scarring, and premature leaf drop.

Chilli thrips cause typical thrips damage to flowers

Chilli thrips cause typical thrips damage to flowers.

Chilli thrips infest dozens

Chilli thrips infest dozens of kinds of flowers, vegetables, and even trees.

Residential Recommendations

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Pyrethroids have never provided effective control of chilli thrips. Foliar applications of imidacloprid can provide days-long, effective control of chilli thrips supposedly without harming natural control agents excessively. Should one decide to use imidacloprid, spider mites may become a problem. Imidacloprid is available for landscape use in the garden section of most big box stores. Do not use imidacloprid on fruits, vegetables, or culinary herbs unless the formulation is labeled for that use.

Other Resources

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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension Center

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology & Plant Pathology

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Publication date: Sept. 14, 2019
Revised: Oct. 3, 2019

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