Discover How to Get Rid of Thrips Naturally

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How to get rid of thrips
Author avatar By Kyle Kushman
November 18, 2021
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Frustratingly, humans aren’t the only things that love marijuana—thrips can’t resist its sweet lure. When left to call your crop their home, an invasion quickly causes irreparable damage to your weed. To become a successful cultivator and get the most out of your cannabis, it’s vital you learn how to get rid of thrips and fast

Thrips don’t just use your weed as a buffet table; they spend their entire life cycle pitching up tents, multiplying, and spreading disease. Before long, widespread infestation halts the growth of your weed, significantly diminishes yield size, and can spell the end for your pot. 

Before you reach for chemical pesticides to fight thrips on cannabis, take a moment to think if you want to consume something treated this way. Organic remedies work wonders and results last a lot longer. 

How do I get rid of thrips naturally? Read our guide on these little nasties below and become a master at keeping them from picnicking on your marijuana.

Cannabis damaged by thrips
Cannabis damaged by thrips

What are thrips?

Thrips on plants are a common gardener’s headache. The tiny mites are part of the Thysanoptera genus of flying insects and measure no more than 1mm—they can creep in easily undetected. 

These two-winged pests are worm-looking with slender black or straw-colored bodies and love to dwell on the underside of leaves. Thrips on weed suck the life out of the foliage, quickly causing damage to your plants as they feed, lay eggs, and become huge colonies of trouble. 

A thrip infestation is less common outdoors as they have many natural predators. Indoor cultivators, on the other hand, need to pay close attention to their plants. These pests love the warm, humid conditions of grow rooms. 

Once you begin treatment, don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve won the battle when signs of thrips clear up; their life cycle can be highly difficult to break. 

Thrips life cycle

The phrase ‘breeding like rabbits’ should be changed to ‘breeding like thrips.’ Cannabis thrips take only 19 days to mature from egg to adult. When cozy in high temperatures, this cycle can be as short as 13 days. 

Generally, marijuana thrips live for around 30 days in total. Their life cycle seems short, but a single female can lay between 80 and 300 eggs in that time. They prefer to do this in the soft tissues of plant leaves and stems. 

It only takes a few days for eggs to hatch before the larvae drop to the soil. They fatten up on its organic matter or even dive down to attack the roots. Once they pupate and mature into adults, they fly back onto the main body of the plant, and the cycle repeats. 

Their fast reproduction rate means that you’ll soon be facing a battle with generations of these hungry critters.  

Thrips larvae

What do thrips eat?

To understand how to get rid of thrips, you first need to know why they’re there in the first place. Thrips on weed can’t get enough of the juicy sap inside your plants. They use their minuscule mouths to bite and saw the stems. After breaking open the fleshy tissue, they drink the plant dry.  

There are around 6,500 species of thrips so far discovered, and not all of them are bad news. Some are beneficial to gardeners and feast on other common cannabis pests such as aphids and spider mites. 

The problem is it’s almost impossible to tell the good ones from the bad. Having the know-how to identify thrips cannabis damage is an invaluable skill to learn. Armed with this knowledge, you can act upon a thrip infestation fast if you need to. 

Thrips damage on leaves

Thrips on marijuana have a destructive diet. Apart from damaging your plants’ greenery with their bite marks, they suck nutrients out that your weed needs to survive and thrive. As a result of this robbery, many processes for health and growth can’t function efficiently, causing a chain reaction throughout your weed. 

The first signs of thrips appear as small dark spots across leaves. As the infestation begins to spread, these areas may turn silvery or white. As the thrips take hold, growth becomes stunted and affected leaves may also wither

When hunting for thrips on cannabis plants, use these six key signs to identify if you have unwanted visitors.

  • Brown stripes across the leaves
  • Pale-colored leaves with faded splotching areas
  • Leaves wither or are dying
  • Flowers emerge malformed
  • Healthy looking leaves drop unexpectedly
  • New growth is slow and deformed 

Signs of thrip infestation

The critters are masters of disguise—you need to pay close attention to your plants when monitoring for signs of thrips. They typically camouflage themselves by laying their tiny bodies parallel with the leaves’ veins. Shake the foliage and watch closely for small movements.  

Using sticky traps around your grow room, especially at the base of your plants, is another simple way to identify if you have a thrip infestation. When positioned in the right way, you’ll quickly see them stuck, which indicates you have a problem. 

Thrips damage on leaves such as dark green speckles and silvery patches is another typical sign these pests are calling your cannabis home. In more severe cases, the loss of chlorophyll turns plants brittle. 

Do thrips damage cannabis plants?

Beyond thrips damage on leaves, the unwanted visitors also bring something sinister to the dinner table—disease. They’re a supercarrier of a category of viruses known as tospoviruses, including: 

  • Capsicum Chlorosis virus
  • Chrysanthemum stem necrosis virus
  • Groundnut ringspot virus
  • Impatiens necrotic spot virus
  • Irish yellow spot virus
  • Maize chlorotic mottle virus
  • Tomato spotted wilt virus

These viruses cause an array of effects on plants ranging from leaf discoloration to decaying veins. The yield of older infected crops will be less than impressive, while thrip damage to cannabis like this in young plants is usually fatal. 

Cannabis leaves damaged by thrips
Cannabis leaves damaged by thrips

How to get rid of thrips naturally

There’s no denying that thrips are hard to get rid of. They’re tiny, speedy, and have a super-fast reproduction rate, which may tempt you to throw pesticides at the problem. Don’t do this. The chemicals used in certain thrips control solutions are toxic to plants, animals, and humans. 

If used during the flowering stage, the pesticides make buds taste inedible, destroy terpenes, and reduce cannabinoids. Research also dictates that using them poses a danger to health when smoked. 

There’s an array of effective natural thrip control for cannabis methods and products. Each stops your crop from getting devoured but preserves the health and quality of your weed. 

Read on to learn how to get rid of thrips naturally. The next time they come knocking, you don’t have to jeopardize the health of your plants, the environment, or yourself. 

Thrips control indoors

Thrips control indoors is simple to perform and doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Follow our guide below to discover what you can do before and after a thrip attack: 

  • Sterilize – The key to deterring these pests from moving into your grow room begins before you’ve even set up the area. Start by sterilizing the space you dedicate to cannabis cultivation. Any decaying or dead plant matter is an open invitation for troublesome insects. 
  • Sticky traps – Once the room is clean and your plants have moved in, strategically place sticky traps at soil level. Most adult thrips will find themselves stuck in no time, including females, before they have a chance to lay eggs. 
  • Pyrethrin – Veteran growers crown Pyrethrin as the best way to get rid of thrips once they’ve already rocked up. The organic insecticide isn’t harmful to most mammals, but it does pose a risk to pollinators, which is why it’s best for indoor use only. 
  • Soaps – Insecticidal soaps are 100% natural and handy for washing pests away. The potassium salts found in the soap’s fatty acids break down soft-bodied insects like thrips. 
  • Neem oil – Does neem oil kill thrips? It’s a popular DIY remedy for pests on cannabis, but it does much more than kill them. Spraying a water and neem oil solution disrupts feeding and breeding patterns, further disturbing the bug’s life cycle. 
  • Beneficial Insects – Not all insects are a threat to your weed. Introducing beneficial ones such as green lacewings, ladybugs, pirate bugs, and predatory mites into your grow space helps keep thrips away from your crop. 
Adding insecticide to weed plant
Adding insecticide to weed plant

Thrips control outdoors

While outdoor cultivators have a lesser chance of experiencing thrips, it’s not impossible. Read on for ideas on prevention and tips surrounding how to kill thrips that invade your marijuana outside. 

  • Protective netting – The best way to get rid of thrips circling your crop is to put up protective netting so that they can’t get close and latch on. These particular insects are minuscule, so you’ll need the finest material available to ensure none slip through the net. 
  • Diatomaceous Earth – Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a powder made from the fossilized remains of phytoplankton. It works the same as soap and neem oil and is harmless to humans and mammals, so it’s safe to use outdoors. For best results, reapply DE after watering and rainfall. 
  • Spinosad – Spinosad is created by fermenting Saccharopolyspora Spinosa bacteria. When insects digest it, their central nervous systems fail, killing them quickly. It doesn’t affect the plant and poses no risk to pollinators, making it the ideal choice for outdoor use.

Plants that repel thrips

If you have the luxury of space, it’s worth considering purchasing some companion plants that repel thrips. Prevention is always better than the cure, and these flora act as bodyguards to your crop making your weed undesirable from the get-go. 

The most effective companion plants to pair with your cannabis are: 

  • Garlic
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Chives
  • Catnip
  • Basil

Do thrips live in soil?

It’s a common misconception that flying pests only live on plant foliage, but thrips do live in soil too. As nymphs hatch from the eggs attached to the plant’s leaves, they fall to the soil. Here they live and feed on organic matter and, in some cases, the roots. 

Eventually, they pupate and turn into adults, leaving the soil behind to continue their life cycle on the plant. 

How to get rid of thrips in soil?

Sprinkling DE around the base of your weed is the best way to get rid of thrips in soil. It kills any dormant nymphs busy pupating under the surface, stopping them from maturing to adulthood and producing the next generation. 

Thrips on leaf
Thrips on leaf

FAQs

If you need immediate answers surrounding how to get rid of thrips, take a look at our answers to the most commonly asked questions below. 

Does neem oil kill thrips?

Neem oil is a highly effective thrips control solution. Most veteran growers ensure they have a spray bottle of oil mixed with water ready to knock down pests. 

Unlike soaps, it does more than kill insects by breaking down their exoskeleton. Instead, cannabis thrips cease feeding after ingesting the oil, larvae stop maturing, and breeding halts. 

Are thrips hard to get rid of?

A trip infestation can be a real challenge to overcome. The insect’s fast maturity combined with a high egg-laying rate makes breaking their life cycle a serious chore. Once you feel like you’ve waved goodbye to thrips on your weed plants, don’t hang up the towel—the larvae may still be hiding in the soil. 

Keep treating your crop as if it has marijuana thrips for at least two weeks after the last sign of an adult. 

Will dish soap kill thrips?

You can create a DIY insecticidal soap at home without all the unnatural chemicals or the cost of store-bought options. 

How to kill thrips using dish soap? Any soap containing fatty acids will dissolve the exoskeleton of soft-bodied insects like thrips, leading them to dehydrate and suffocate. Spray or wipe the water and soap solution over affected areas for fast results. 

Marijuana thrips

Thirsty thrips, be gone!

Now you’re armed with the knowledge on how to get rid of thrips naturally; next time you see something buzzing around your pot, there’ll be no need to reach for the pesticides.

Putting preventative measures into place and opting for organic provides the same effects as using chemicals. Plus, you suffer zero side effects for your weed, the environment, or yourself. 

Remember, the ultimate aim when battling cannabis thrips is to break their lifecycle. If you give up too early, they’ll soon be back, sapping the life out of your plants. Pay close attention to your crop and act fast to reduce the risk to yield size and quality. 

Want to learn more about keeping your cannabis safe from pests? Check out our blog for all things marijuana-related.


About the Author: Kyle Kushman

Kyle Kushman is a legend in the cannabis community. He is the modern-day polymath of pot: cultivator, breeder, activist, writer, and educator. After winning no less than 13 Cannabis Cups, there’s nothing this guy doesn’t know about indoor growing – he’s been there, done it, and is still doing it to this day!