Thrips – the bane of pitcher plant growers, the world over. These tiny devils invade your plants, carried to them on breeze or introduced by other infested plants. Thrips have asymmetrical mouths with the right mandible being vestigial, or missing all-together, and the left mandible being finely-honed to a needle-like stabby-stabby dagger used to shank your plant’s cellular walls and suck them dry one at a time. One species, the Western flower thrip, is abbreviated as WFT. They got that wrong. It’s more like WTF?!
You’ll first notice these pests by the distinct silvery, scraped damage wrought on the surface of your pitcher plants. To add insult to injury, they poop all over your plant, leaving behind scattered black specks on the open wounds. They’re not incredibly picky eaters, and will commonly attack Sarracenia (I’ve got 99 problems, and every one of them is thrips), Nepenthes and Darlingtonia. Mercifully, there are pesticides to eradicate them.
While I normally advocate natural methods of pest control, especially when talking about food crops, I have little patience with insects that harm my carnivorous plants. Therefore, I pull out the big guns; Orthene is a good systemic insecticide that will poison thrips for months following a foliar spray onto your pitcher plants. A systemic insecticide works by being absorbed and circulated by your plant’s tissues, poisoning thrips that feast upon them. It’s a last meal, and execution all rolled into one.
I just noticed the little demons all over my pitchers:( Have you tried neem oil with any success? I have some that I’ve used on other houseplants but I’m not sure if it’s ok for these guys?
Hi Ericka! I feel your pain… I haven’t personally used neem oil on my pitcher plants, but know folks who do with success. Seems to be ok to wipe down pitchers with it, but try to avoid getting too much in the soil.
Will Orthene kill thrips and aphids. I think I have both on my sundews! Also, thanks for the humorous and informative post!
Thanks for your kind words, and happy growing!
Hi! Thanks for info. I am noticing what look like TINY white grains of rice in the soil of my pitcher plant that come to surface when I fill with water from the top and wiggle a bit then disappear when the water drains through. There are no bugs or damage on the actual leaves or pitchers so I’m confused if I’m dealing with thrips. Are these possibly a beginning instar of thrips and they will eventually get bigger and migrate to the leaves? It’s been over a month and I have not found bigger white bugs elsewhere on plant. Pests tend to grow fast so I’m genuinely unsure if I’m dealing with thrips. I took a photo of them and even called a carnivorous plant shop in the city I live but they never called me back lol.