Overview

Brief Summary

Thrips (Order Thysanoptera) are ubiquitous, small to minute (a few millimeters long) and slender-bodied insects with fringed wings. The morphology is reduced: thrips have only one functional mandibular stylet, the second being greatly reduced, thus forming asymmetrical suctorial mouthparts compacted within a short cone-shaped rostrum. About 50% of the known species of Thysanoptera feed on fungi, approximately 40% feed on living tissues of dicotyledonous plants or grasses, and the remainder exploit mosses, ferns, gymnosperms, cycads, or are predatory (Morse and Hoddle 2006). Less than 1% of described thrips species are serious pests and most economic literature deals with just four species (Mound and Teulon 1995).

  • Morse MS, Hoddle MS (2006) Invasion biology of thrips. Annual Review of Entomology 51:67–89.
  • Mound LA, Teulon DAJ (1995) Th ysanoptera as phytophagous opportunists. In Parker BL, Skinner M, Lewis T. Th rips Biology and Management. New York: Plenum, 3–20.
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Thrips (Order Thysanoptera) are tiny, slender insects with fringed wings (thus the scientific name, from the Greek thysanos (fringe) + pteron (wing) (Tipping 2008)). Other common names for thrips include thunderflies, thunderbugs, storm flies, thunderblights, and corn lice. Thrips species feed on a large variety of sources, both plant and animal, by puncturing them and sucking up the contents. A large number of thrips species are considered pests, because they feed on plants with commercial value. Some species of thrips feed on other insects or mites and are considered beneficial, while some feed on fungal spores or pollen. So far around 5,000 species have been described. Thrips are generally tiny (1 mm long or less) and are not good flyers, although they can be carried long distances by the wind. In the right conditions, many species can exponentially increase in population size and form large swarms, making them an irritation to humans.

Like the words sheep, deer or moose, the word thrips is used for both the singular and plural forms. So while there may be many thrips there can also be a single thrips. The word thrips is from the Greek, meaning wood louse (Kirk 1996).

  • Kirk, W. D. J. (1996). Thrips: Naturalists' Handbooks 25. The Richmond Publishing Company.
  • Tipping, C. (2008). Thrips (Thysanoptera). Pages 3769-3771 in Encyclopedia of Entomology, John L. Capinera, ed. Springer, New York
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Introduction

thysanos - fringe; pteron -wing.

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Comprehensive Description

Thrips are small hemimetabolic insects with a distinctive cigar-shaped bauplan: elongate with transversely constricted bodies. They range in size from 0.5 to 14 millimetres (0.020 to 0.55 in) in length for the larger predatory thrips, but most thrips are approximately a millimetre in length. Flight-capable thrips have two similar, strap-like, pairs of wings with a ciliated fringe, from which the order derives its name. Their legs usually end in two tarsal segments with a bladder-like structure known as an arolium at the pretarsus. This structure can be everted by means of hemolymph pressure, enabling the insect to walk on vertical surfaces (Heming 1971, Gillott 2005).

Thrips have asymmetrical mouthparts that are also unique to the group. Unlike the Hemiptera, the right mandible of thrips is reduced and vestigial - and in some species completely absent. The left mandible is larger, and forms a narrow stylet used to pierce the cell wall of tissues (Childers & Achor 1989). Some species may then inject digestive enzymes as the maxillary stylets and hypopharynx are inserted into the opening to drain cellular fluids (Hunter & Ullman 1989, Hunter et al. 1994). This process leaves a distinctive silvery or bronze scarring on the surface of the stems or leaves where the thrips feed (Heming Heming).

Thysanoptera is divided into two suborders: Terebrantia, and Tubulifera. These two suborders can be distinguished by morphological, behavioral, and developmental characteristics. Members of Tubulifera can be identified by their characteristic tube-shaped apical abdominal segment, egg-laying atop the surface of leaves, and three "pupal" stages. Females of the eight families of the Terebrantia all possess the eponymous saw-like ovipositor on the anteapical abdominal segment, lay eggs singly within plant tissue, and have two "pupal" stages.

  • Childers, C. C., and D. S. Achor. 1989. Structure of the mouthparts of Frankliniella bispinosa (Morgan) (Thysanoptera: Thripidae). In B. L. Parker, M. Skinner and T. Lewis [eds.], Towards Understanding Thysanoptera. Proceedings of the International Conference on Thrips. USDA Technical Report NE-147, Radnor, PA.
  • Gillott, Cedric (2005). Entomology. Springer. p. 234. ISBN 0-306-44967-6.
  • Heming, BS (1971). Functional morphology of the thysanopteran pretarsus. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 49: 91–108.
  • Heming, B. S. 1993. Structure, function, ontogeny, and evolution of feedng in thrips (Thysanoptera). In C. W. Shaefer and R. A. B. Leschen [eds.], Functional Morphology of Insect Feeding. Entomological Society of America, Lanham, Maryland.
  • Hunter, W. B. & D. E. Ullman (1989). "Analysis of mouthpart movements during feeding of Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande) and F. schultzei Trybom (Thysanoptera: Thripidae)". International Journal of Insect Morphology and Embryology 18: 161–171. doi:10.1016/0020-7322(89)90024-X.
  • Hunter, W. B., D. E. Ullman & A. Moore (1994). "Electronic monitoring: characterizing the feeding behavior of western flower thrips (Thysanoptera: Thripidae)". in M. M. Ellsbury, E. A. Backus & D. L. Ullman. History, Development, and Application of AC Electronic Insect Feeding Monitors. Thomas Say Publications in Entomology. pp. 73–85.
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Characteristics

Derived characteristics:
  • asymmetrical mouthparts with right mandible lost
  • pretarsus with protrusible "bladder", which balloons out as leg makes contact with the ground.
  • wing linear with long marginal setae
  • two or three quiescent, pre-imaginal instars

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Distribution

Geographic Range

Thrips are found worldwide. There are approximately 5000 species. More than 100 species inhabit the Great Lakes region.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native ); oceanic islands (Introduced , Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Thrips are slender, elongate in their bodies and the head is elongate as well. They range in color from black to dark brown to tan to yellowish. They are usually hypognathous. The mouthparts consist of a single stylet on the mandible and two stylets on the maxilla. These form a feeding tube. Thrips have small or large compound eyes, and three ocelli are present in fully winged forms. The abdomen consists of eleven segments, whereby ten segments are visible. In some species, an ovipositor is present on the female. Forewings and hindwings are similar. They are narrow and have a setal fringe. The short antennae are in four to nine segments. The legs are short and have a retractile bladderlike organ. When inflated, this organ provides adhesion to smooth surfaces.

Range length: 0.5 to 15.0 mm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; female larger

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Ecology

Habitat

Thrips are found in flower blossoms, on the undersides of leaves, in leaf whorls and axils, under bark, in mosses, in leaf litter and soil, on fungi, and on fruits and flower bulbs.

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Thrips are primarily phytophages; that is, they eat plants and parts of plants, such as pollen, flowers, leaves, fruits, twigs, or buds. They consume flower heads of daisies and dandelions. In addition, they feed on onions, carrots, melons, cucumbers, peas, beans, roses, gladiolus, irises, and mullein. Plant-feeding thrips pierce a hole using their mandibular stylet to suck out the contents of individual cells. Pollen-feeding thrips ingest the contents of individual pollen grains.

Some species that live in litter eat fungi or decaying plant materials. Others are gall inducers. There are some species of thrips that feed on mites, small insect larvae, and other species of thrips.

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Some species of thrips aid in biodegradation of organic materials.

Ecosystem Impact: biodegradation

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In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Animal / predator / stocks nest with
female of Spilomena beata stocks nest with Thysanoptera

Animal / predator / stocks nest with
female of Spilomena curruca stocks nest with Thysanoptera

Animal / predator / stocks nest with
female of Spilomena enslini stocks nest with Thysanoptera

Animal / predator / stocks nest with
female of Spilomena troglodytes stocks nest with Thysanoptera

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Known predators

  • M. A. Mayse and P. W. Price, 1978. Seasonal development of soybean arthropod communities in east central Illinois. Agro-Ecosys. 4:387-405, from p. 402.
  • M. A. Mayse and P. W. Price, 1978. Seasonal development of soybean arthropod communities in east central Illinois. Agro-Ecosys. 4:387-405, from p. 401.
  • Waide RB, Reagan WB (eds) (1996) The food web of a tropical rainforest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
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Known prey organisms

Thysanoptera preys on:
Artemisia frigida
Bouteloua gracilis
Hesperostipa comata
Pascopyrum smithii
Ratibida columnifera
Helianthus annuus
Atriplex canescens
Picradeniopsis oppositifolia
Senecio vulgaris
Glycine max
Acari
fungi
flowers
Collembola
nectar and floral
leaves

Based on studies in:
USA: California, Cabrillo Point (Grassland)
USA: Illinois (Agricultural)
Puerto Rico, El Verde (Rainforest)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • L. D. Harris and L. Paur, A quantitative food web analysis of a shortgrass community, Technical Report No. 154, Grassland Biome. U.S. International Biological Program (1972), from p. 17.
  • M. A. Mayse and P. W. Price, 1978. Seasonal development of soybean arthropod communities in east central Illinois. Agro-Ecosys. 4:387-405, from p. 402.
  • M. A. Mayse and P. W. Price, 1978. Seasonal development of soybean arthropod communities in east central Illinois. Agro-Ecosys. 4:387-405, from p. 401.
  • Waide RB, Reagan WB (eds) (1996) The food web of a tropical rainforest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Development

These insects got through a kind of metamorphosis that is intermediate between simple (or gradual) and complete. The first two stages have no external wings and are larvae. Internally, wings may be developing. In some species, the third or fourth instar, the "prepupa," has external wings, but is inactive and does not feed. The fourth or fifth instar, the "pupa," is sometimes enclosed in a cocoon. After this, the adult results.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Reproduction

Eggs, which are large with respect to the size of the female, are laid in plant tissue or in crevices or on exposed vegetation. The first and second instars resemble small adults except for the genitalia and wings. The third, fourth or fifth instars are resting stages known as "prepupa" or "pupa." Significant tissue reconstruction occurs during this time. Females are diploid, and males, if present, are haploid. Parthenogenesis is common. Several generations of thrips are produced annually.

Key Reproductive Features: parthenogenic

Thrips are considered to be subsocial in that a few species exhibit parental care of young.

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Evolution and Systematics

Fossil History

The earliest fossils of thrips date back to Permian (Permothrips longipennis Martynov, 1935). By the Early Cretaceous true thrips became much more abundant (Grimaldi et al. 2004). The extant family Merothripidae most resemble these ancestral Thysanoptera, and are probably basal to the order (Mound 1997).

  • Grimaldi,D., A. Shmakov, N. Fraser. 2004. Mesozoic Thrips and Early Evolution of the Order Thysanoptera (Insecta). Journal of Paleontology 78(5):941-952.
  • Mound, L. A. 1997. Biological diversity., pp. 197-215. In T. Lewis [ed.], Thrips As Crop Pests. CAB International, Wallingford, UK.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:10,839Public Records:8,151
Specimens with Sequences:9,257Public Species:231
Specimens with Barcodes:8,334Public BINs:613
Species:314         
Species With Barcodes:249         
          
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Thysanoptera

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Some Thysanopterans are vectors of viruses that damage plants. Many thrips cause damage to important crops of vegetables, fruits, and flowers. In addition, when there is a proliferation in the numbers of thrips in the Great Lakes region, these insects may cause respiratory and skin irritation to agricultural workers. Thrips have been known to bite.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings); crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Predatory and scavenger thrips are important eliminators of small arthropod pests and organic remains, respectively.

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

The almost 6000 known species of thrips are at present arranged into two suborders (Terebrantia and Tubulifera) and nine families, but disagreement exists concerning the family classification system (Mound 2007). Phlaeothripidae is the largest family and the sole family in the suborder Tubulifera with about 3500 described species (Mound and Morris 2007). The other eight families are all included in the suborder Terebrantia (2400 species). Members of the Merothripidae (15 species) and Uzelothripidae (1 species) are all very small thrips associated with fungal hyphae in warm countries. In contrast, members of the Melanthripidae (65 species) are usually large and robust, and they all breed in flowers, and occur in temperate areas. Th e Aeolothripidae (190 species) is a rather larger family of mainly phytophagous species feeding on flowers, or non-obligate predators of other arthropods. The species of the next three families are poorly known, Fauriellidae (5 species) from California, southern Europe and South Africa. Adiheterothripidae (6 species) are known only from the flowers of date palms, Phoenix dactylifera and Heterothripidae (71 species), are found only in the New World and, with one exception, all species live within flowers. Th eighth family, with nearly 2100 known species is by far the largest within Terebrantia : Thripidae are found worldwide and include almost all of the pest species of thrips, many of them feed and breed on both leaves and in flowers.

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