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How to get rid of thrips on hibiscus

Thrips on hibiscus

Thrips are small insects (between 1 and 6 mm) that belong to the order Thysanoptera and are very common in gardens around the world. To date, approximately 5,600 species are known, and many of the caules like to attack our plants. This time we will be in charge of analyzing what damage they cause and how to get rid of thrips on hibiscus. These insects can become very annoying and difficult to kill if we do not treat them properly, so it will be good for you to read this post.

Like most sucking insects (they suck the sap from plants), they are found on the back of leaves. This is due to the fact that this area of the leaves is more porous and, therefore, more accessible to the thrips’ mouthparts. This detail means that sometimes we do not detect them in time, so you must be very careful to know when thrips are attacking your hibiscus.

Fun fact: whenever we talk about thrips, we refer to them as a plant pest. But the truth is that within the large number of species of thrips there are many harmless or even beneficial for many of our plants.

1. Identification of thrips on hibiscus

As with all pests, the first important point is to know how to recognize them. Since we can be very clear how to treat it, but if we do not know how to find them to identify them, we will never act in time.

As we said, thrips are very small insects, they have two pairs of narrow fringed wings. Depending on the species they can be found in various colors, the most common being brown, yellow and black.

Generally, it is the larvae that we will find on the back of the leaves. Whereas when they are adults they move quite clumsily around the plant.

In the case of hibiscus, a good way to find thrips is in its flowers. Since they attack especially in the flowering stage, you only have to shake some of the flowers and, if there are thrips, you will see them fall. You can do it on a light-colored surface to be able to see these small insects more easily.

2. What harm do thrips do to hibiscus?

The high degree of adaptation of thrips to different climates and ecosystems has turned this insect into a great pest. Both for large crops and in our garden. Among the plants that like to attack are hibiscus. Let’s see what damage thrips do to hibiscus.

In summary, we could say that the thrips pierce the surface of the leaves to suck the juices of the hibiscus. This causes many scars to be seen on the leaves and shoots. At the same time the leaves will begin to look paler, of a somewhat platinum color, with spots and will end up falling if we do not act in time.

It is also very common for thrips to attack newer hibiscus shoots. That is why it is important that you inspect them. The thrips attack and lay the eggs inside the new shoots. You will see how the buds take a light color and then fall to the ground. At that point, the tiny larvae burrow into the ground and then grow to adulthood.

Another element of your hibiscus that you should inspect is its flowers. As we already said, thrips like to attack flowers. What you see are a kind of scratches on the petals (wounds that are generated by sucking the juices). This scraping effect can sometimes go almost unnoticed and is considered part of the flower’s own discoloration. But if you shake the flowers a bit, you will see the thrips fall.

Depending on the species of hibiscus in question, it can suffer one or another type of damage by thrips. In any case, it is always good to be vigilant and inspect flowers and shoots. Once you’ve found thrips on your hibiscus, don’t delay in starting a treatment. If you don’t take it in time, it may be too late.

3. How to get rid of thrips on hibiscus

We have already seen how to identify a thrips and what type of damage can be expected in a hibiscus attacked by this pest. Time to see some solutions to control this problem.

As always, there are many organic solutions, each with a greater or lesser degree of effectiveness. Often, this effectiveness will depend on the degree of advancement of the pest. In general, the sooner we act, the more effective the natural options will be.

Adult thrips
Adult thrips

3.1 Homemade Insecticidal Soap

One of the most common home solutions to control pests like thrips is a soap-based insecticide. This is effective against all soft-bodied insects (other examples are aphids and mealybugs) as it removes their protective covering. So these insects end up dehydrating and dying.

To prepare this homemade insecticide you must place 3 to 5 tablespoons of liquid soap per gallon of water. The water should preferably be distilled, as it does not have certain minerals that make this insecticide less effective. Once it is well mixed you can place it in a sprayer and it is ready to apply.

In general, hibiscus are not affected by the application of soap to their foliage. But since each soap can have different chemicals, it’s best to test a couple of sheets first. If these leaves are not affected, you can proceed to apply it to the entire foliage.

Note that most thrips are on the reverse side of the leaves. So when you apply this insecticide you should do it on both sides of the leaf to make sure you spray them.

For greater effectiveness, apply in the first hours of the morning or at the end of the afternoon. This is because the sun is less intense at these times and therefore it will take longer to dry the solution. This will give the insecticide more time to kill the thrips on your hibiscus.

3.2 Treating your hibiscus with Neem oil

A very effective organic treatment to control thrips is to spray with Neem oil-based products (the same one we recommend for armyworm control). This product does not contain any chemicals that can harm your hibiscus, although it must be applied several times before you can control a thrips infestation.

Along with this organic treatment, and for greater effectiveness, it is recommended to eliminate all the most attacked foliage and flowers. Otherwise, when they fall, you will allow the larvae to reach the ground. And this will make it take much longer to finish all the thrips.

3.3 Tobacco-based solution

Continuing with the natural options for thrips control in your hibiscus plants, we must mention tobacco. Here we will recommend two ways to prepare homemade insecticide from tobacco.

1) If you have a smoker at home, you can collect the butts and pour them into a liter of water. Try to remove the ashes from the cigarette butts before putting them in the water. After a day filter the water and place it in a sprinkler. And voila, you can apply it on your hibiscus.

2) If there are no smokers at home, what you can do is buy tobacco to prepare it. Put 60 g of tobacco in a liter of water. Let the mixture sit for a day, then dilute in 3 liters of water and add a tablespoon of grated white soap. Once done, you can apply it.

This homemade insecticide not only works to control thrips, it is also effective against aphids, mealybugs and spider mites.

3.4 Pruning your hibiscus

Along with all the solutions you can apply to control thrips, it is always good to remove the attacked leaves and flowers. As we mentioned earlier, if you don’t, you will allow the larvae to reach the ground and return to the plant as adults.

Pruning is not a solution that you must apply individually. Cutting all the foliage with thrips will not control the pest. Pruning must always accompany some other treatment. It will only be effective if the thrips attack on your hibiscus is small and only a few leaves and flowers have been attacked.

3.5 Using thrips insecticide

If you detect the pest when it is very advanced, the homemade or organic solutions that we have seen so far may not be enough to control it. In that case you should look for an insecticide for thrips, which if you use them correctly they are much more efficient.

Obviously it is always better to solve it through natural treatments, hence the importance of good pest monitoring is always highlighted. If you frequently observe your hibiscus, you can always solve any problems in time. You are less likely to need to use an insecticide.

In case you need a thrips insecticide, there are many on the market. One of the most used to control thrips in plants such as hibiscus is Spinosad. This is a natural insecticide produced by the fermentation of a bacterium. It has very little toxicity to mammals and is classified as a low toxicological risk product. With about three applications of Spinosad on the foliage of your hibiscus you will have controlled the thrips. Allow 5 to 7 days between each application.

Another good solution is the systemic insecticide imidacloprid. It is very good at killing thrips that “burrow” in hibiscus tissue. You can also use chemical insecticides such as acefate or bifenthrin. With two or three applications of these insecticides you will have killed most of the thrips (wait about 10 days between each application).

Whenever you choose to use an insecticide, you must use it responsibly. Read the instructions carefully before applying it. If you use it uncontrollably, you will be causing damage to the ecosystem of your garden both in the short and long term.

4. How to prevent thrips on hibiscus

Faced with a pest, it is good to know how to recognize and treat it. But a point as much or more important than knowing how to treat it is to see how to prevent it. It is is that you know, as the famous popular saying says “better safe than sorry”.

To prevent thrips attack on plants such as hibiscus you can follow the following tips:

  • Carry out a periodic control of the plants. Never forget to check the underside of the sheets.
  • Take care of the natural predators of thrips. One of the most common predators of thrips is ladybugs.
  • Avoid applying nitrogen in excess since it can contribute to causing thrips pests. That is, you should avoid applying excessively synthetic fertilizers.
  • Eliminate foliage and flowers attacked by thrips.
  • Do not use chemical insecticides in an uncontrolled way. These can end up killing natural predators.

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