Hello out there! My name is Kathy Oliver and I am a program assistant with UF/IFAS Extension Service in Manatee County. I primarily work with ornamental growers and the public to maintain production systems and home gardens using Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM employs a variety of methods including pest prevention, cultural and biological controls, and chemical control when necessary.
Western Flower Thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) and Chili Thrips (Scirtothrips dorsalis Hood) can be a major problem for growers because they spread diseases and can become resistant to pesticides. Adult thrips that enter the terminal buds and flowers are difficult to control with either chemicals or biologicals and may cause significant crop damage. IPM specialist Dr. Lance Osborne (http://bit.ly/i6Vt0z) and other UF researchers have addressed these issues in a newly-released Thrips Management Program for Ornamental Horticulture. The document outlines steps to manage thrips populations throughout initial propagation and growth stages at levels that allow the plant material to be shipped.
The program stresses the importance of good scouting, sanitation, and exclusion practices wherever possible as no insecticide will provide complete control. Growers should apply insecticides when scouting reports identify population levels where experience and/or extension personnel determine that action be taken, especially before thrips densities reach moderate or high levels. Similarly, the key to using biological controls is to release them early. Several biological agents are available for managing thrips, including predatory mites and nematodes, and insect-infecting fungi.
Four different treatment programs are outlined in the management plan, depending on whether the plants have viruses present or serve as hosts, the degree of thrips infestation, and the integration of biological controls. Please contact me if you would like more information. We hope to bring Dr. Osborne to our area soon to discuss this pest management strategy.