NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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The poinsettia thrips, Echinothrips americanus, is a relatively dark thrips that is also called the impatiens thrips. Females are about 1/16 inch long, slender, and have two pale spots or bands on the wings. Males are somewhat smaller. The legs are dark near the body and pale at the extremity, and the antennae are pale. Immatures are also slender, very pale, and have bright red eyes. Although this thrips is found throughout much of the eastern United States, it tends to be a pest species only in the southern part of its range. This thrips deposits eggs randomly inside leaf tissue. Larvae hatch and develop through two stages before molting into prepupal and then pupal stages. A new generation of adults emerges from the last pupal stage in 12 to 33 days after the eggs were laid. Poinsettia thrips is relatively sluggish and apparently does not spread rampantly throughout a new environment unless blown in on prevailing breezes. It also tends to stay in the lower portion of plants.

Poinsettia thrips

Poinsettia thrips are dark and slender with pale bands on the wings.

Poinsettia thrips feed

Poinsettia thrips feed on the lower surfaces of leaves.

Poinsettia thrips immatures

Poinsettia thrips immatures are very pale and have bright red eyes.

Host Plants

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Obviously poinsettia and impatiens are hosts of poinsettia thrips, but it also infests Irish shamrock, chrysanthemum, witch hazel, and many other plants. An experiment in Georgia showed that this thrips reproduced successfully on 99 cultivated and feral plant species. Thrips damage may resemble sun scald, but thrips and their excrement are easily recognized when infested leaves are turned over to reveal the lower surfaces.

Residential Recommendations

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Poinsettia thrips is not resistant to pesticides perhaps because of its large feral population that is never sprayed with insecticides. Horticultural oil and insecticidal soaps give adequate control of thrips. Most of the insecticides labeled for residential landscape use should also give more than adequate suppression. This pest and other thrips species fly, and because of their small size they can be blown for long distances. Once thrips have been treated, would be well to keep an eye on susceptible plants. Don't spray flowers.


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This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

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Publication date: March 9, 2018
Revised: Aug. 12, 2021

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