Thrips are very difficult to reach with chemical sprays; but Amblyseius predator mites are small enough to find and eat them, making biological control the best answer to this problem.
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Thrips suck juices out of leaves and emerging flowers, leaving them with a 'rasped' look. They do not generally kill plants, but make them look tired and unsightly. If they attack young emerging shoots then leaves may be crooked and misshapen.
Amblyseius cucumeris is a tiny, pale coloured beneficial mite. It is used by professional glasshouse growers to control thrips and tarsonemid mites. It can be used in gardens outside in the summer months in sheltered areas and in heated glasshouses and conservatories.
These mites crawl around on the leaves and within the flower buds looking for their favourite prey which are thrips larvae. They usually target the smaller, newly hatched young, but they have been known to tackle larvae bigger than themselves.
The sachets have a hook for hanging on branches but can be propped against smaller plants. You will need 1 sachet for 1-2 m² or 1 per plant. They may give you up to 6 weeks protection because the sachets contain grain mites, which give the amblyseius a source of food to stop them all emerging at once.
Amblyseius Cucumeris is used to treat Thrips and can tolerate hot, dry conditions. Amblyseius are suitable for glasshouses and conservatories, as well as outside during the Summer.
Amblyseius spp. are difficult to spot with the naked eye, and to tell apart even with the benefit of a microscope. The colour of the mites vary according to what they have been feeding upon.
Instructions for use
These mites need to be within crawling distance of their prey. Simply hang the sachets among the leaves away from direct sunlight and within reach of their prey. The mites crawl out of the back of the sachet through the little round hole so there is no need to make a further tear or hole.
For pot plants you can prop the sachets up on the base of the plant if the plant is not big enough to support the sachet. The sachets will last longer if they are out of direct sunlight and sheltered from overhead watering. The mites will leave the sachet over the next 4 to 6 weeks so be careful not to take it away too soon.
These little predatory mites work best in temperatures between 10°C – 27°C, and appreciate some humidity to help them gain control of their prey more quickly.
For best results, introduce the Amblyseius in mid-May for frost-free conservatories, or earlier where temperatures are constantly warm. Amblyseius will survive on pollen from flowers until the young thrips start to appear and provide them with a preferred diet, thus preventing an infestation from taking hold.
The most serious type of thrips is the Western Flower Thrips. The insects are generally hidden inside flowers, but can be seen by shaking a flower onto an open hand, or by trapping them onto glue traps (blue is the best colour for thrips).
They drop to the ground to pupate, so keeping the ground or bench clean may discourage development of succeeding generations.