I’ve searched everywhere to find what these pests are and I’d always end up to one solution – Thrips. As Thrips pests are usually showed as black bugs with wings (and bigger than what I have), I wasn’t quite sure it was really Thrips. I’m still not sure. But I’m sure of one thing – If you see them, you need to take action ASAP!
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There are over 4500 types of Thrips, apparently, so I’m guessing it is a type of Thrips we’re dealing with here. In any case, these are very harmful to plants and are capable of killing a plant in a matter of weeks.
Thrips | How to they look and where are they found
They look like tiny yellow dashes, that move. Even with a magnifier, they still just look like dashes – they are that tiny. In fact, they are so small, you probably won’t see them until they already start damaging your plant.
They like to feed on the newest leaves.
That’s actually how I noticed them. I saw my Monstera Deliciosa was putting out a new leaf (in January, you can imagine my excitement), and then I noticed the not yet unfurled leaf had brownish edges. Not brown like it was dry, but just a light brown discoloration. And I immediately thought to myself “oh, crap”.
My look immediately glanced on the rest of the plant, and there they were. These tiny dashes sucking on my plant. I had a short panic attack as I recognized them as the pests that killed two of my mom’s Monsteras (fairly young plants, developed from cuttings) and severely damaged an older one. Just wiping them off with alcohol didn’t help, as they always returned.
You will find them all over the plant (on top and underside of the leaf and along the stem), but the majority of them will be on the newest leaves.
So, as they adore new growth, I immediately cut off the new leaf. Since it was unfurled, it was impossible for me to clean it (it had many Thrips on the inside). If you see new growth on your plant start to die, check up for these little bastards. Take a magnifier if necessary, and take a good look on all parts of the plant.
It’s important to know these are pests, even if they may not look like it, and you need to start treating your plant right away!
What I did to get rid of them
As this happened just a few days ago, I can’t say for sure that I got rid of them. I’ll have to update you in a couple of months on this.
Using natural remedies against pests means you’ll need to treat your plant several times before you can call victory.
Nonetheless, I wanted to share ASAP how harmful this pests are, especially since I haven’t found any information about this online. I did find people with the same problem, but not the answer to it.
Steps I took to get rid of Thrips:
First off, I isolated the plant from the rest and I did check up on all the plants that were nearby.
Then I turned to my poor infested Monstera Deliciosa. I used a cotton pad and Neem oil.
I put a few drops of oil on the pad and gently went through all the plant, leaf by leaf – top and underside, as well as stems, manually removing the pests.
Be sure to change cotton pads frequently.
Along with this, I scraped off the first inch of soil and threw it out.
After this I brought my Monstera to the shower and thoroughly washed it. Then I went back and repeated the process with Neem oil.
Now I’m letting the plant rest for a few days.
You need to repeat the Neem oil process every few days, until they don’t come back any more.
What I’m going to do next, is to repot the plant so that I throw out all soil – so I can even more thoroughly wash the plant, and by doing that I hope to throw out possible larvae (if there are some in the soil), as well.
You may find this a bit too much and you can think that’s harmful and stressful for the plant, but trust me, these pests are way worse than changing all the soil.
You could pour a mixture of water and Neem oil in soil, that worked for Fungus gnats when I had them in one of my plants, but I want to be 100% sure I exterminate them from the plant and from my apartment.
Here’s the situation 9 months later.. neem oil seems to be the most effective natural way against thrips. But – there’s always a but unfortunately… I found that if you notice thrips before they spread, they are relatively easy to get rid of.
But when they manage to spread they are difficult to get rid of. Even though I treated the whole plant with neem oil (and every other possible natural remedy), they just kept coming back.
Once again, a good reminder to clean your plants’ leaves regularly.
My Monstera survived, but I had to cut it back completely, so it’s full of new baby leaves now. But in the meantime, I’ve had them on several other plants and some I unfortunately lost.
Eventually, I’ve had to turn to an insecticide, as I couldn’t stand to look at them killing plant by plant. Still, I opted for what in my opinion is not as invasive of an insecticide in comparison to some other.
side note: if you have to use it on a Calathea plant, be mindful that it will probably damage some of the leaves (as they are quite sensitive and leaves start to dry from it), but new growth will come out healthy and good looking.
Using an insecticide is the very last option and I use it only when and if they become unmanageable.
Now, they occasionally still show on some of my plants, but as I clean and wipe their leaves regularly, it’s no big deal.
Having a mixture of water, a few drops of neem oil and a drop of organic dish soap it’s handy to always have already mixed in a spray bottle and it’s great to use to clean plants every few weeks (or at least on a monthly basis).
Thrips prevention & safety kit:
What types of plant do they like?
They probably like the majority of our common houseplants, but there are two plants they seem to be very fond of – Monstera Deliciosa and Calathea.
It’s sad to look what they can do to a plant. It really looks like they are sucking out life from it, turning leaves from green to yellow and then brown, until the leaf completely shrivels and drys out.
I really hope I will be able to manage them with Neem oil and by repotting the plant in new, fresh soil. Fingers crossed! I wish you good luck, too! If you want to share your experience and tips on how to get rid of these little bastards, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.