Florida growers—especially those growing peppers—should be on the alert for pepper thrips, a new invasive pest.

UF/IFAS is warning Florida growers about a new invasive pest: Thrips parvispinus, or pepper thrips. These tiny insects were first detected in a greenhouse in Orange County in 2020, but they have since been found in outdoor settings. UF/IFAS warned growers about the insect in a blog, detailing that “In November, a south Florida grower lost an entire pepper crop to the pest valued at more than $1.3 million.” See the details below.

Details of Pepper Thrips

“We better be careful. This insect is notorious for damaging peppers around the world but now it has moved from the greenhouse to the environment and has established itself in several areas around the state,” said Lance Osborne, a UF/IFAS entomologist at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, in the blog. Since the invasive insect is such a relative newcomer to The Sunshine State, little is known about biologicals and predators or treatments that could be used to combat the pepper thrips. Growers—especially those in peppers and ornamentals– can access a new website to get more information about the thrips, including “the insect’s biology, early detection, and damage symptoms with detailed videos and images.”

According to the blog, the “tiny insects fly and hop from plant to plant, rasping the plant with their mouth parts and sucking the sap. Feeding on the plant restricts the plant’s growth and reduces crop yields.” Muhammad “Zee” Ahmed, a USDA research entomologist, said in the blog, “While damage symptoms are the most noticeable indicators of its infestations, they may not appear until after the plant has sustained considerable harm. As they say, prevention is always better than cure, and this is particularly true when dealing with Thrips parvispinus.”

Osborne added that “At first, the damage can mimic mites and can be misleading. The control methods are not the same and without proper treatment, these thrips can take out a whole crop.” They advise growers to “scout often and inspect their plants carefully.”

Osborne maintained that ““Growers of any crop should be aware. This insect seems to have a fairly broad host range. This won’t just impact peppers and ornamental plant growers.” The blog shares that “The pest has been detected on a wide variety of plants including 43 species from 19 plant families including fiber crops, vegetables and ornamental plants.”

Growers who detect pepper thrips should report their findings to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry. Researchers are conducting testing on controls for the insect, but they need in-field test subjects.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.