Thrips v.s. springtails
In this blog, Mariken from www.tuiniernatuurlijk.nl (Instagram: @schenkeveldnatuurlijk) explains the difference between thrips and springtails. These are often confused, while a springtail is not necessarily harmful. Read this article at your ease, so you can save yourself a potential panic attack if there appear to be no thrips.
Houseplants give a comfortable atmosphere in the house. Unfortunately, sometimes bugs get into the plants and cause damage. These bugs can get into your plants in different ways. For example, they can come along with a new plant that is brought into the house. They can also get into the potting soil that is used when repotting plants. Or they can fly in through an open window/door. Examples of bugs you can find in plants are thrips and springtails. These two bugs are sometimes confused with each other.
Thrips is an insect with a size of approximately 1 to 2.5mm. They are slender and have a small head. We encounter several thrips species that will cause damage to plants. Depending on the thrips species, an adult thrips can be black or yellow and everything in between. The larvae are usually white, yellow or orange in color. The thrips species also determines where the thrips is in the plant. For example, California thrips likes to be in flowers and Echinotrips always on the leaf. Some species pupate into adult thrips in the soil and some species pupate on the leaf. The blog "thrips in houseplants" describes the different thrips species and their characteristics.
Thrips punctures plant cells and sucks these cells empty. This causes silver-gray spots with black dots (poop). In case of a high infestation the leaf will eventually turn yellow/brown. If thrips pierces the head of the plant it causes growth malformation. Deformed flowers and/or fruits occur when thrips punctures the flower bud or fruit bud. Eggs are laid in the leaves or in soft stem parts. This also causes damage, the so-called "egg craters".
Thrips can be controlled biologically by means of predatory mites, lacewings and predatory bugs. The predatory mite Hypoaspis lives in the soil and eats the thrips pupae there. The predatory mites Amblyseius swirskii and Amblyseius cucumeris eat mainly the smallest larval stages. Lacewings and predatory bugs eat all stages of thrips except the pupae in the soil and the eggs in the leaves/stems. The eggs are not controlled by any bug because no bug can get to them....
Springtails are small wingless bugs that are very different from other insects. Therefore, researchers doubt whether it is correct to call a springtail an insect. There are many different types of springtails. These can also differ a lot in appearance. For example, there are spherical, narrow, orange, yellow and brown springtails. Most springtails we encounter are about 1 to 2mm in size. Springtails get their name from the so-called "jumping fork" on the tail. Using this "jumping fork" the creature can make large jumps when disturbed. The antennae of springtails are constantly moving. Antennas look for food and a path to walk on. Springtails live in the upper part of the soil and on the ground. When humidity is high, they may want to walk into the plant. The diet of springtails is diverse. They eat algae, pollen, fungi, bacteria, and especially dead plant material. They sometimes eat a root but do not cause much damage. Springtails can only cause problems if there are a lot of them and if the plants are still small. In general, they do not do much harm to healthy plants. The soil predatory mite Hypoaspis eats springtails. By using this predatory mite the number of springtails stays at a low level.
Springtails or thrips?
Springtails and thrips are somewhat similar. Especially the narrow brown springtails can be confused with thrips. With higher humidity, springtails sometimes climb into the plant so they can be mistaken for thrips. How can you distinguish between springtails and thrips?
The adult stage has wings
Trips live on the leaf or in the flowers. The pupae are in the soil but these do not move and are not visible.
Springtails live mainly in and on the ground
Trips make damage in plants. Damage symptoms are silver-gray spots on the leaf. Deformed buds, leaves and flowers.
Springtails make no visible damage in the plant
Slightly less mobile
Are very mobile, especially the antennae
Body is more like a stripe
Body is slightly rounder