Q&A – Spilled Pollen vs. Thrips


Janice H. asked Annie:

Q How does one tell the difference between spilled pollen and thrips? This morning in looking over my violets, I noticed a couple flowers with spilled pollen. A couple of my violets had thrips several years ago, so my heart dropped when I saw the pollen, as the only way to get rid of the thrips was to toss the violets. I’ve read on another forum where several people use Rid shampoo [a shampoo used for hair lice] against thrips. How effective is that process? I’ve quarantined the two violets in another room. I am hoping that the flowers were just bumped in turning and that I have nothing to worry about.


A Hi Janice – great question.  My experience with thrips has been limited, and the best way I know of to combat them is to disbud completely. However, I ran this one by Joyce – she has more information on thrips than I do.

Here is what Joyce shared – I knew she would have great info to share on this topic!

“The difference between spilled pollen and thrips is… movement! If there is noticeable pollen on the flowers, there are enough thrips present to be found with a small amount of effort. Flicking the pollen sacs with a fingernail or blowing sharply into the center of the flower will bring the thrips scurrying out onto the petals to see what is happening.

There are no easy cures for thrips (except throwing away the violets as Janice suggests). The agricultural people have come up with a phrase “Integrated Pest Management” (IPM) that describes employing multi-faceted tactics to achieve full control of a pest. Applying those principles to African violets and thrips:

  • The most obvious tactic is conventional pesticides (but none of these pesticides will do it alone).
  • Another tactic is using a natural chemical like Neem oil to repel thrips.
  • Using a physical tactic like throwing the plant or at least all the buds and flowers away is always going to be effective, especially if the discarded item is contained (blossoms and buds in a sealed bag) so thrips cannot escape. Similarly using sticky traps to capture flying thrips before eggs are laid will help prevent an infestation
  • Some growers use the biological tactic of a predatory mite (Amblyseius cucumeris) to attack and feed on thrips eggs, larvae, and even adult thrips.
  • Regulating the growing area is also a good tactic. Keep windows closed. Change clothes and wash after being outside in the garden. Isolate new plants in a different area. Isolate suspected plants quickly.

Does Rid work to kill thrips? It uses a natural chemical, a pyrethrum, as its active ingredient. It could be used and will have some effect. But Rid alone won’t solve the problem any better than each of the other tactics. It is the use of multiple tactics used together, where you will have the potential to eradicate thrips.”



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