Thysanoptera Click to enlarge image
Thrip (Order Thysanoptera) Image: Andrew Howells
© Australian Museum

Thrips belong to the Order Thysanoptera.

What do thrips look like?


  • 0.5 mm -15 mm in length but most are shorter than 5 mm.


  • Cigar-shaped, column-like or widest at wing attachment (wide shoulders), with abdomen tapering.
  • Flattened as if pressed from above.
  • Head square or rectangular-like.
  • Appears soft or hard.


  • Bead-like or thread-like.
  • Never longer than body.


  • Berry-like.
  • Very small or large.
  • Moderately separated.


  • For piercing, scraping and sucking.


  • Two pairs, if present.
  • Both pairs thin with no more than three veins.
  • Margins entirely or partially lined with long hairs.
  • At rest, wings held flat over body and either overlapping or held alongside each other.


  • Six legs, short and stocky.
  • Adhesive bladders expand from last tarsal (toe) segment.

Abdomen tip:

  • Cerci (tails) absent.
  • Last segment of abdomen may be long and tubular, with a ring of long hairs at the tip.

Where are thrips found?

  • On leaves, and fruit.
  • On flower heads where they may spend their entire life.
  • Axils of grasses, leaves and flower stalks.
  • Under bark and among leaf litter, moss and fungi.
  • Some live in galls or shelters made by folding leaves. Galls maybe constructed by the thrip or more likely by another insect group.

What do thrips do?

  • Most thrips are solitary, though they may form large groups in areas where preferred food sources are minimal.
  • Some form colonies in galls or folded leaf-shelters.
  • When disturbed they run or fly away.
  • Their flight activity is often associated with a change in weather (hence common name 'thunder flies').
  • Some flightless species are small enough to be dispersed by wind.
  • Most are plant feeders feeding on leaves, pollen, nectar, flowers, fruits and young shoots of trees and shrubs.
  • They tend to feed by sucking up juices created after rasping surfaces.
  • They may also feed by piercing and sucking out internal juices or eat items whole such as pollen.
  • Other thrips feed on fungal spores hyphae.
  • Some are predators. Thrip predators prey on eggs, larvae or even the adults of a variety of insects, mites and nematodes.
  • Some are pests to crops (mostly introduced species).
  • They are active during the day or night. Some night active species are attracted to light.

What looks similar?

  • Not readily mistaken due to unique appearance and lifestyle.