Bug of the Day: Mullein Thrips

Written by: Vilheim Piwowarek

While having a fun time weeding one day, I was very excited (and perhaps would be alone in my excitement) to see a species of a unique and obscure insect group in the garden. The bane of some farmers, though not a problem for us –Thrips, specifically Mullein Thrips (Haplothrips verbasci).

Mullein Thrips, Source: https://lacrossetribune.com/couleenews/lifestyles/ridgerunner-reports-some-insects-are-breeding-in-middle-of-winter/article_cb66eb46-5e46-11e1-af23-0019bb2963f4.html

Never heard of a Thrips? (yes, Thrips is singular!) That’s ok, neither has Microsoft Word, as I just found out. Thrips are an order of insect, Thysanopterans. They feed on plants and sometimes other insects. Their bodies are often tiny dots less than a millimeter in length. If you ever get the chance to see one closely, they are usually darkly colored, thin elongated beings that, frankly, don’t look too remarkable. However, Thrips are very unique, primarily due to their wings.

Thrips wings

Thrips have fringed wings that are thin with jutting hairs, that make the resemble feathers. While their wings may appear incapable of flight, the design of Thrips’ wings allow them to use a type of flight called Clap and Fling, a feature unique to them and certain wasp groups. Rather than normal flapping, these little guys clap their wings together, then fling them apart, hence the name. This motion creates a vortex that pushes the tiny insect aloft, as they fly into the sunset.


Written by Vilheim Piwowarek, resident entomologist of the DOT Garden. As an insect enthusiast and insectivore, he is very passionate about understanding insect roles in the Garden, alternative pest management, undercutting insect-related misconceptions, and staring at insects for hours at a time. He is starting his Senior year high school.


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