A thrips: Carcinothrips leai.
Thrips are often little known by most people, but some species are considered major agricultural pests.
23 October 2006 | Updated 8 February 2013
Species of the order Thysanoptera are remarkable amongst insects, for several reasons.
Adults and larvae have asymmetrical mouthparts with only one mandible, because the mandible on the right hand side is resorbed during embryonic development.
All Thysanoptera have either two or three pupal stages despite the two larval stages having the general appearance of adults.
The tarsi of adult Thysanoptera have an eversible bladder-like arolium that enables them to cling to surfaces, in much the same way as members of the Diptera.
Although adults of many Thysanoptera species are wingless, typical adults have wings that bear long marginal fringes, although similar wings occur in many other minute insects including the smallest moths and wasps.
Common names for members of this insect Order occur in many languages.
About 50 species of thrips are considered pests, and distinguishing them can be difficult.
In German, the common name 'blassenfusse' refers to the bladder-like feet, and 'fransenflugler' to the fringed wings. The widely used English common name, thrips, is derived from the Greek for woodworm, and refers to the fact that so many thrips species live on fungus on dead branches rather than in flowers.
The word thrips, is grammatically a plural noun, as is the word sheep. Therefore a single thrips is still 'a thrips' (not a thrip), just as one sheep is 'a sheep' (not a ship!).
Biology and pests
Currently, more than 5 500 species of thrips are known worldwide, in two suborders, nine families and 750 genera, and they exhibit a wide range of biologies.
About 40 per cent of species feed on fungi on dead branches and in leaf litter, mostly on fungal hyphae but with one major group on spores.
A large number of species breed only on grasses, usually in the flowers. Many species feed only on leaves, and some of these induce galls.
About 50 species of thrips are commonly pests, and distinguishing these from non-pest species is sometimes difficult.
To facilitate pest identifications an electronic system, ThripsID, was produced in 2001. This provided details of 180 species across all Thysanoptera families worldwide, and is illustrated with 1500 colour photomicrographs. Pest thrips of the world was produced in 2004, with data concerning 99 species of Thripidae, including a molecular system for identifying many of these in addition to the visual system.
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