One of the most common plant pests you’ve probably never heard of is thrips. Thrips can be every bit as destructive as aphids, whiteflies, or mealybugs infestations .
Thrips are tiny, elongated insects that feed off of plant tissue and plant sap and comprise over 6,000 different species worldwide.
Adults measure only 1/25” inch and can be black, brown, or yellow, while the nymphs are most often pale green or yellow.
Female thrips lay eggs in a plant’s leaves, stems, and flowers. And despite a life cycle of only 45 days, it can have as many as 15 generations living together in a single growing season. Even worse, thrips will reside in flowers, under leaves, bark, and overwinter underground.
Thrips can do a lot of damage, stunting growth or causing plant deformity, discoloration, and killing blooms. Produce may fail to mature, rendering them inedible.
But how can you get rid of thrips without resorting to harsh chemicals? Sticky traps are one option.
But, let’s take a look at neem oil and thrips. Does neem oil work on thrips? Does Neem kill thrips? Read on to find out.
Does Neem Oil Kill Thrips?
The good news is that Neem oil can indeed kill thrips. It also works well in eradicating other pests, including aphids, spider mites, caterpillars, and leaf miners.
The bad news is that you might have to use extra caution in this type of pest control since the thrips will infest flowers such as azaleas and rhododendrons.
Related: Details on Citrus Thrips
What Neem Oil Does
Neem oil is the natural extract of Azadirachta indica, produced by cold-pressing parts of the plant, especially the leaves and seeds.
Raw neem oil from the neem tree contains five insecticidal chemicals, the chief of which is Azadirachtin.
Azadirachtin has a chemical composition similar to insect hormones and damages when ingested through several possible effects.
It can prevent thrips larvae or nymphs from reaching the next instar, effectively causing them to die without ever achieving adulthood.
In adults, it can cause infertility, and in many species, it will also cause a loss of appetite, which results in the insect starving itself.
When the Azadirachtin is removed for use in commercial pesticides, the resulting clarified hydrophobic neem oil will kill thrips.
These forms of neem insecticidal soaps clog the airways of insects, causing them to suffocate.
Neem Oil Against Thrips
Yes, neem oil is effective against thrips as a pesticide.
It works by suffocating thrips and disrupting their life cycle. To effectively control thrips, it’s important to follow the product’s instructions, ensuring proper application.
Establishing a regular spraying routine can help maintain control over the thrips infestation.
The Risks of Treating Flower Blooms
There are three common methods for using neem:
- Foliar sprays
- Soil soaks
- Neem cakes
The foliar spray is the most popular of these methods, but it has a major drawback on outdoor plants.
Because neem oil can kill beneficial insects, including bees, green lacewings, minute pirate bugs, and ladybugs, you must spray when these garden friends are least active at dusk or dawn.
Additionally, avoiding spraying blooms is usually advised to reduce the risk of harming natural thrips predators like bees, and you can’t spray near beehives.
Related: Is Neem Safe For Use Around Bees?
As a result, try only to use the foliar spray indoors when fighting thrips with neem oil, allowing you to treat the flowers and the rest of the plant safely.
Neem Foliar Sprays
As mentioned, neem foliar sprays are the most popular method of using neem, although they’re the least efficient.
You must coat the entire plant for the spray to work, including the undersides of leaves and any cracks or crevasses.
Generally, you’ll also want to avoid spraying the blooms on flowering plants.
However, for indoor plants and vegetable gardens or plants not currently in bloom, this can be a useful method of attack.
Here’s how to use neem oil for thrips:
Blend 1 teaspoon of Dawn dish soap or pure castile soap into a gallon of water to make an emulsion.
Mix 2 tablespoons of clarified hydrophobic neem oil (recommend 1% percent for most infestations or 2% for heavy infestations) and pour into a spray bottle.
How often to spray neem oil for thrips will depend on the severity of the infestation. Spray the entire plant at dusk or dawn, getting every little crack.
The neem will dissipate without leaving residue in about 45 minutes to an hour.
Note that it may last a little longer in the crevasses or deep between the petals on thick blooms such as roses, so try to avoid spraying the blossoms when outdoors.
You must repeat the treatment every other day for 14 days or until the infestation is gone.
Reapply every two weeks as a preventative.
Neem Soil Soaks
The Neem soil soaks, or drench, is less popular but far more effective way of treating thrips with neem oil.
This has a similar recipe to the foliar spray. However, only use 100% percent cold-pressed raw neem oil instead of the clarified.
Depending on the size of the plant, you will need to pour 2 to 3 cups directly on the soil around the roots, being sure to cover a radius.
For large plants, such as trees, you might need to use the whole gallon to cover the root radius properly.
We usually recommend this method because it’s far easier to use on larger plants, won’t harm beneficial insects, and lasts far longer.
The neem will kill harmful ground pests such as grubs without harming earthworms.
When the roots absorb the Azadirachtin, it becomes a systemic insecticide, only harming insects that bite or pierce the plant’s skin.
In addition, it will even help fight some fungal and bacterial infections, including root rot.
The Azadirachtin remains potent for up to 22 days, so reapply every 2 to 3 weeks to keep your plants healthy and protected.
The least commonly used neem cakes are the solids left over from extracting neem oil.
They’re used primarily as a fertilizer and contain trace amounts of neem.
Following the directions on the package, you can use neem cakes to protect the soil from overwintering thrips and feed your plants.
Neem cakes are also effective against lawn grubs and other ground-based pests year-round.