Harmful insects

How to Scare Off Thrips?

Microscopic picture of a thrips
Microscopic observation of a thrips. Actual size: 1.5 mm. Photo: I, Toony, Wikimedia Commons.

I Was Laidback Before I Was a Gardener.

My patience was already limited before I started growing things, and more importantly, my beliefs as a biologist came before my love of plants. My philosophy is “Life wants to live”. If my plant doesn’t want to live, well that’s its problem!

All this to say: thrips, we agree are… (I’m looking for polite words, but I can’t find them.)

OK, let’s just say it: thrips are crap!

This tiny insect parasitizes all parts of the plant: it is therefore necessary to treat leaves, stems and roots to get rid of it.

I told you: I’m lazy. Just soak watering, I find too much at times… Then, treating plants with a product at a certain frequency, repotting, isolating…

No. Just no.

So What Do I Do When I Have These Intruders in My House?


I can hear you saying: “What? But, but… your plants will die, you’ll contaminate your whole collection, bugs in your house, yuck!”

Yes, I agree with all that.

Cactus damaged by thrips
The damage to my cactus that I didn’t keep a close enough eye on…

The fact is, I have a lot of ladybugs at home. Living in the countryside, they’re around all year-round. We don’t know where they come from, and we have learned to tolerate them… (except when they bite my thigh in the middle of the night, but that’s another story). So when I find thrips, I keep my fingers crossed that my predators will do the job. In some plants, a balance is established and the thrips eventually disappear. I see this especially with the plants directly in front of windows, where ladybugs are more numerous because of the light and heat that attract them.

For the others, I have a special treatment…

I unfortunately didn’t keep a photo of my crime, but my dragon fruit chose to host hundreds of thrips last fall. Upon seeing this, I put it out… for the winter! Have you ever seen a snow dragon fruit?

Dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus)
Dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus). Foto: Anne Jea., Wikimedia Commons. Photo: Anne Jea., Wikimedia Commons.

The Passive-Aggressive in Me

I don’t have any rare plants that cost a fortune, just a hundred or so ordinary houseplants, most of them from donated cuttings. Lucky for me! When one of them is sick or infested, I don’t mind letting it die.

In the summer, I take my plants outside and water them with the hose… if I think about it. When I bring them back in the fall, I often have a rather difficult month with them: we don’t understand each other, I forget that the rain doesn’t water them anymore. I neglect them a bit.

At some point, I regain control, but that’s when I sometimes notice infestations! The kind that even my ladybugs can’t get rid of.

Aloe damaged by thrips
I am a serial killer of aloes. I don’t like them, they don’t like me, stop giving them to me!

Seeing this picture made some people tear their hair out.

I didn’t, and I’ll give you my trick for trying to scare the thrips away:

Put the plant outside and watch it die all winter, taking away the thrips’ food source!


I am hoping this will drive the bugs away from my house. Did it work? No. After my dragon fruit last winter, it’s now my aloe and my little cactus, affectionately known as Colin, turn to be infested.

Sorry Colin, you were my first plant, I loved you… but you just had to avoid thrips!

Dear aloe: you can go join your predecessors, I didn’t like you anyway.

Two indoor plants outside
R.I.P. my plants full of thrips, I will wave at you from my living room when it’s below 0!

Audrey Martel is a biologist who graduated from the University of Montreal. After more than ten years in the field of scientific animation, notably for Parks Canada and the Granby Zoo, she joined Nature Conservancy of Canada to take up new challenges in scientific writing. She then moved into marketing and joined Leo Studio. Full of life and always up for a giggle, or the discovery of a new edible plant, she never abandoned her love for nature and writes articles for both Nature sauvage and the Laidback Gardener.

8 comments on “How to Scare Off Thrips?

  1. It has never snowed nor ever will where I live so we have to love our plants unconditionally. Fortunately the Ladybugs also find extra time to stay alive and help out!

  2. After battling mealy bug amongst my succulent collection we have a no tolerance policy now. Any plant that repeatedly succumbs to insect pests gets moved out to ‘death alley’. Kills the pest and keeps it from spreading to my others. No room for sentimentality here either Colin. Sorry.

  3. You’re right! We try desperately to save infested plants, wasting time and energy and usually without success.The plant dies anyway and spreads the infestation along to others. Out into the snow you go!

  4. Jan Bushfield

    Love your philosophy. If they want to live they will live! As for the others, add them to the list of ‘plants I have loved and lost’ and move on. There are so many more waiting for an audition.

  5. Granny Pat

    Love this column. It may not offer a lot of typical gardening help but it certainly helps me keep my sanity and equilibrium in a world with too many demands on my aging time and energy. ???


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