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Chilli Thrips

Article author: Extension Entomologist at Weslaco (Vacant)
Most recently reviewed by: Pat Porter & Extension Entomologist at Overton (2020)

Common Name(s): Chilli Thrips, Strawberry Thrips, Yellow Tea Thrips


Chilli thrips, Scirtothrips dorsalis, are tiny (> 2mm long), cigar-shaped insects.  The adults are pale in color with black, feathery wings and dark spots forming incomplete stripes on the top of the abdomen.  Immatures, called larvae, look similar to adults but are even smaller and lack wings. Distinguishing chilli thrips from other thrips species is difficult, requires magnification, and some knowledge of insect taxonomy.  Chilli thrips are most often recognized based on their behavior and the type of damage they cause.

Origin and Distribution

Chilli thrips are thought to originally come from Southeast Asia although they are now widely distributed through most of the world including India, Japan, most of Africa, much of the Caribbean and South America, and are quickly becoming established in the United States.  They were first detected in Florida in 1991 and in Southeast Texas in 2005.  They have been intercepted at various ports-of-entry many times on a wide range of host plants and are likely established in many landscapes from Florida to Texas.  This insect has the potential to become a wide-spread pest throughout the Southern and Pacific U.S.

Habitat & Hosts

Chilli thrips are known to infest an impressively wide range of host plants, more than 225 species from at least 40 different plant families, and the list will likely continue to grow as they expand their range.  Their main wild, or native, host plants are in the bean family, Fabaceae.  Among other known plant hosts are numerous important crops and ornamental plants such as citrus, corn, cotton, eggplant, melon, peanut, pepper, rose, strawberry, tobacco, and tomato.

Unlike similar looking species such as the Western flower thrips, which are often found in flowers feeding on pollen, chilli thrips feed on foliage and are typically found on the undersides of leaves near the mid-vein or borders of leaves. However, when population densities are high, some individuals may be found feeding on the upper surface of leaves.


These insects have piercing and sucking mouthparts they use to extract material from individual epidermal plant cells.  Cell death leads to a silvering or bronzing of leaves and may cause them to curl, distort and/or turn brittle and drop from the plant.  Infested plants can become stunted or dwarfed. Chilli thrips tend to favor tender plant tissue, flower buds, and young fruits and vegetables although all above ground parts of plants may be attacked.  Feeding on fruits leads to scarring and, in severe infestations, corky tissues.  Aesthetic damage to ornamental plants can lead to extensive losses in the nursery/horticultural industry.

In addition, chilli thrips are known to vector at least seven viruses to various plants including chilli leaf curl virus, peanut necrosis virus, tobacco streak virus, melon yellow spot virus, watermelon silver mottle virus, and capsicum chlorosis virus, although there are no reports at this time that they have been vectors of any of these viruses in Texas.

Life Cycle

Female thrips insert anywhere from 60 – 200 microscopic, kidney-shaped eggs into plant tissue on or near leaf veins, terminal plant parts and floral structures where they cannot be detected by the naked eye.  Eggs will hatch in 2-7 days.  There are two larval stages that look similar to the adult but are smaller and lack wings.  Larvae feed for 8-10 days before entering a non-feeding pupal stage that lasts 2-3 days.  The length of time it takes to complete their life cycle varies depending on temperature and host plant but ranges from 14 – 20 days.  Their large reproductive capacity and quick generation time means that chilli thrips populations can increase very quickly.


If you live in the State of Texas, contact your local county agent or entomologist for management information. If you live outside of Texas, contact your local extension for management options.

Early detection of chilli thrips is important.  Monitor for leaf silvering, bronzing or distortion, which can be mistaken for herbicide damage.  To sample for thrips, tap the terminal portion of plants over a white piece of paper and examine with a hand lens or magnifying glass.  In nurseries or greenhouses, yellow or blue sticky traps can be used to monitor for thrips.

Chilli thrips do have some natural enemies including minute pirate bugs (Orius sp.), lacewings, and predatory mites.  While these predators may not always be able to provide adequate control of chilli thrips, it is important to preserve them by avoiding broad-spectrum insecticides such as pyrethroids and organophosphates, both of which also have a limited ability to manage chilli thrips .  Biorational insecticides including horticultural oils, spinosad, and insecticidal soaps will kill larvae and adult thrips but have no residual activity so frequent application will be needed to control larvae as they emerge from eggs and/or new thrips migrate in.  Products containing the conventional insecticide imidacloprid can be used as a soil drench or foliar spray and will provide control for a longer period of time with minimal impact on natural enemies. No matter what product you choose, it is important to rotate between different insecticide modes of action to reduce the risk of developing insecticide resistance.

Contributors: Scott Ludwig and Carlos Bogran

Related Publications

Chilli Thrips Control, Identification, and Management. 2016. Yan Chen, Steven Arthurs and Dennis Ring. LSUAg. Available here

Featured Creatures. Chilli Thrips. UF IFAS University of Florida. Available here

Pest Thrips of the United States: Field Identification Guide. Available here


Ananthakrishnan T. N. 1993. Bionomics of thrips. Annual Review of Entomology 38: 71-92

Chiemsombat, P., O. Gajanandana, N. Warin, R. Hongprayoon, A. Bhunchoth, P. Pongsapich. 2008. Biological and molecular characterization of tospoviruses in Thailand. Archives of Virology 153: 571-577.

Kumar, V., D. R. Seal, G. Kakkar, C. L. McKenzie, and L. S. Osborne. 2012. New tropical fruit hosts of Scirtothrips dorsalis (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) and its relative abundance on them in south Florida. Fla. Entomol. 95: 205 – 207.

Kumar, V., G. Kakkar, D. R. Seal, C. L.  McKenzie, J. Colee, and L. S. Osborne. 2014. Temporal and spatial distribution of an invasive thrips species Scirtothrips dorsalis (Thysanoptera: Thripidae). Crop Protection 55: 80 – 90.

Mound, L. A., and J. M. Palmer. 1981. Identification, distribution and host plants of the pest species of Scirtothrips. (Thysanoptera: Thripidae). Bulletin of Entomological Research 71: 467-479.

Rao, R. D., V. J. Prasada, A. S. Reddy, S. V. Reddy, K. Thirumala-Devi, S. Chander Rao, V.Manoj Kumar, K. Subramaniam, T. Yellamanda Reddy, S. N. Nigam, D. V. R. Reddy. 2003. The host range of tobacco streak virus in India and transmission by thrips. Annals of Applied Biology 142: 365-368.

Reddy, D. N. R., and Puttswamy. 1983. Pest infesting chilli (Capsicum annuum L.) in the nursery. Mysore J. Agric Sci 17: 246 – 251.

Sanap, M. M., R. N. Nawale, 1987. Chemical control of chilli thrips, Scirtothrips dorsalis. Vegetable Science 14: 195 – 199.

Seal, D. R., M. Ciomperlik, M. L. Richards, W. Klassen. 2006. Distribution of the chilli thrips, Scirtothrips dorsalis Hood (Thysanoptera: Thripidae), within pepper plants and within pepper fields on St. Vincent. Florida Entomologist 89: 311-320.

Seal, D. R., W. Klassen, and V. Kumar. 2010. Biological parameters of Scirtothrips dorsalis (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) on selected hosts. Environ. Entomol. 39: 1389 – 1398.

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Corn Earworm (Helicoverpa zea)

Article author: Pat Porter
Most recently reviewed by: Dalton Ludwick & Extension Entomologist at Weslaco (Vacant) (2020)

Common Name(s): Corn earworm, Cotton Bollworm, Soybean Podworm, Tomato Fruitworm


Corn earworm belongs to the Order Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths and skippers) and the adult stage is a stout bodied, brownish to buttery-yellow moth with a wingspan of about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches. There are usually darker bands present near the tips of the front and hind wings.

There are six larval instars (or stages). The first instar is about 1/16” long and the the 6th instar can grow to 1 3/4 inches long. There is no one color for the larvae, and they can range from yellow to pink to green. Regardless of coloration there will be a darker stripe down the midline of the top of the larva, and somewhat wider stripes on the lateral edges of the body when viewed from above. A yellowish band is often found on the side of the larvae, and the band contains the dark, circular spiracles, the holes that let air into the insect’s body. Larvae have many microspines on the back and sides of the body, and these are not found on other common corn caterpillar pests. The head is orange to tan but may be more brownish in some larvae.

Origin and Distribution

Corn earworm is native to the New World and overwinters in Texas, has multiple generations here, and is a threat throughout the growing season. In the United States, it is thought to be able to overwinter south of about 40 degrees north latitude, but as the summer progresses the moths fly north and infest the entire country and some of  Canada.

Corn earworm adult

Corn earworm adult showing typical buttery yellow color.

Habitat & Hosts

Corn earworm has an extremely wide food host range and can be found wherever its host plants grow. There are many non-crop plants on which the earworm can develop early in the year before crops and gardens are planted. Cultivated hosts include sweet corn, field corn, green beans, snap beans, cowpea, peas, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, sweet potato, rice, cotton, grapes, strawberry and many others. Typically the “worm” in sweet corn is the corn earworm. Corn earworm is also a very significant pest in hemp or cannabis production, and it is not uncommon to find larvae consuming buds and leaves.

Life Cycle

Eggs are laid singly on host plants. These are pearly white when laid and become somewhat more yellow over the course of the three days or so before they hatch. The larval stage, comprising six larval instars, lasts 12 to 15 days during the warm part of the growing season, longer when it is cooler. When fully grown, the 6th instar larvae leaves the host plant, burrows into the ground and enters the pupal stage which lasts 10 – 15 days during the summer. Adults emerge from the ground, mate and disperse to lay eggs. Sometimes they disperse very

Corn earworm egg on corn silk.

Freshly deposited corn earworm egg on corn silk.

long distances on storm fronts. Moths consume liquids and nectar as food and they are not damaging to plants.




If you live in the State of Texas, contact your local county agent or entomologist for management information. If you live outside of Texas, contact your local extension for management options.

Management practices differ depending on which crop is being damaged. On field corn and sweet corn, the eggs are laid on silks, and the newly hatched larvae feed down the silk channel and then on the tip of the ear. In this case there is little opportunity to use insecticides because the larvae are in protected spaces. If insecticides are to be used, then they should be applied at the time of egg laying, usually with repeated applications from the time of silking until after the brown silk stage is reached.

Control is more straightforward when the earworms are feeding on the outside of the leaf or fruiting structure. In this case, sprayable formulations of Bacillus thuringiensis can be applied if a least toxic control method is desired. It must be noted, however, that corn earworms are now resistant to many of the Bt toxins in these sprayable insecticides because they built up resistance to them on Bt (GMO) corn in the last 25 years that corn has been used in the US. Synthetic pyrethroids can be effective, especially on smaller larvae, but it is also the case that corn earworms have developed significant levels of resistance to synthetic pyrethroids due to their widespread use in agriculture. Chlorantraniliprole is highly effective on corn earworm larvae, even large larvae. Spinosad and Spinetoram are very effective as well, as is the old insecticide carbaryl (Sevin). Agricultural producers have more options available and should consult a crop-specific control guide.


Corn Earworm. University of Florida Featured Creature:

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Cotton aphid/Melon aphid

Article author: David Kerns
Most recently reviewed by: Pat Porter (2018)

Common Name(s): Cotton Aphid, Melon Aphid

Pest Location

Row Crop, Vegetable and Fruit


Cotton or melon aphids, Aphis gossypii, are highly variable in size and color, varying from light yellow to dark green or almost black. Although size can vary based on environmental conditions, adult aphids tend to be about 1/16th inch in length, are soft bodied and pear shaped. Aphids have piercing-sucking mouthparts and have two protrusions on their rear tips called cornicles. Aphid adults can be winged (alate) or wingless (apterous). The formation of winged types is usually in response to overcrowding or poor host quality. The immatures or nymphs of the aphid are similar in appearance to the adult but smaller.

Origin and Distribution

Cotton aphid is nearly cosmopolitan, having a world-wide distribution. However, host specificity does vary depending on geographic origin.

Habitat & Hosts

Cotton aphids are extremely polyphagous and can feed on a large range of host plants covering 25 plant families. Among many others, notable hosts include asparagus, beans, begonia, catalpa, citrus, clover, cucurbits, cotton, eggplant, ground ivy, gardenia, hops, hibiscus, hydrangea, okra, peppers, potato, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes and violet. Crops typically most affected by cotton aphids include citrus, cotton and hibiscus.

Cotton aphids will initially be found feeding on the underside of new leaves, the plant terminal and flower buds, but as the population grows will infest the under side of older leaves.

Cotton aphids feed using sucking-piercing mouthparts which they use to pierce leaves and ingest copious amounts of plant sap from the phloem. Feeding robs the plant of energy that would otherwise be utilized for growth or fruit production. Heavy and prolonged infestations can cause leaves to curl downward, older leaves to turn yellow and shed, plant fruit may also shed or suffer reduction in size.

Cotton aphids excrete wastes in the form of a syrup-like substance called honeydew. Honeydew will accumulate on the leaves (and other plant structures) giving them a shiny, sticky appearance. A black sooty mold will often grow on the honeydew covering the leaf which may partially inhibit photosynthesis. More importantly, the honeydew may accumulate on the lint of open cotton bolls rendering the lint undesirable for milling.

Cotton aphid is also an important vectors of over 50 plant viruses including cucumber mosaic virus, watermelon mosaic virus 2, and zucchini yellow mosaic virus. These viruses are non-persistent viruses and may be transmitted from aphid to plant in a little as 15 seconds.

Cotton aphids are often attended by ants, which collect an feed upon their honeydew.

Life Cycle

With exception of northern latitudes, cotton aphids in the United States are all females, reproduce asexually (parthenogenically), giving birth to live young without mating. Aphids have a tremendous reproductive capacity and nymphs are born with developing embryos already present; essentially aphids are born pregnant. One female may produce as many as 80 offspring that mature within 8 to 10 days. Thus, it is possible for cotton aphids to have as many as 50 generations per year. These generations also occur as frequently as every 5 to 7 days under optimum conditions. In northern latitudes cotton aphid is capable of producing sexual forms and laying eggs on catalpa and rose of sharon for overwintering purposes.

Wingless adults overwinter in protected areas on catalpa, hibiscus, and a number of weed hosts. In the greenhouse, they can be active year-round. In spring winged females fly to suitable host plants and can disperse great distances via wind and weather fronts.


If you live in the State of Texas, contact your local county agent or entomologist for management information. If you live outside of Texas, contact your local extension for management options.

Predators such as lady beetles, lacewings and syrphid flies, along with parasitoids and aphid-killing fungi are often the most effective means of managing an cotton aphids. These beneficial organisms can effectively prevent aphids from reaching the damaging levels. Aphid tending ants will often protect aphids from predators. Soil and seed applied insecticides offer protection during early plant growth, but foliarly applied insecticides are often necessary on more mature plants. Standard and organically certified insecticides are available, but cotton aphid is notorious for developing resistance to commonly used insecticides so adequate control is not certain.

Related Publications


Blackman, R.L. and V. F. Eastop. 2000. Aphids on the worlds crops: an identification and information guide 2nd edition. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Kerns, D.L., J.A. Yates and B.A Baugh. 2015. Economic threshold for cotton aphid (Hemiptera: Aphididae) on Cotton in the Southwestern United States. J. Econ. Entomol.108: 1795-1803.

Suhas, V., D. Kerns, C. Allen, R. Bowling, M. Brewer and M. Parajulee. 2017. Managing cotton insects in Texas. ENTO-075, 38 pp.

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