Thrips & Strawberry Plants

thrips strawberry plantsThrips and strawberry plants simply don’t go well together.  Thrips are one of the devastating strawberry pests that afflict strawberry plantings and enrage gardeners.  If you are having difficulties with “something” damaging your strawberries, it just might be this common pest.

To most clearly communicate the nature of strawberry thrips and information regarding these insects, a question and answer format will be used.  For additional information on both strawberry pests and strawberry diseases, use the search function at the top right of Strawberry Plants .org.

How big are thrips?

Thrips are small.  They can range from 0.5 millimeters to 14 millimeters in length, but the average length is just over one millimeter (1/25 of an inch).  See the picture below for a scanning electron micrograph of a thrip.

What does thrip damage look like on strawberries?

Strawberries that have white discoloration on the berry’s surface or golden-brown discoloration often are the result of damage done by thrips.  Strawberries contorted into odd, folded shapes (cat facing) often indicate thrips have been feeding as well.  When thrips feed on the strawberry flowers, poor quality fruit is usually the result.

When do thrips do the most damage?

Thrips can do damage during most of the season.  However, their populations tend to increase rapidly during the mid- to late summer.

What type of strawberry plants are most damaged?

Thrips will do damage to any type of strawberry plant.  However, since everbearing strawberries tend to produce a significant crop later in the season (see the Strawberry Varieties page for more details), and since thrip populations boom during the mid- to late summer, they are more affected than are June-bearers.

thrips and strawberry plants

The bottom line is that thrips are bad news.  If you see bugs like the one above, it is likely that your strawberry plants are going to be food for the creepy-crawlies.

6 comments to Thrips & Strawberry Plants

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Rick McFall,
    I would recommend using the resources in the Strawberry Plants Library to identify both pathogenic diseases and parasitic infestations. Good luck!

  • Rick McFall

    There is a problem with my strawberry plants that I can’t figure out. A lot of the leaves have turned a dark green (almost blackish) hue, and some have curled inward on the worst affected plants. Some of the plants have died. It looks like what might be leaf scorch as described in the plant diseases section, but I can’t be certain. I have pictures but do not know how or if I can post them here. Do you have any pictures of the leaf scorch disease? I also have found what I think are thrips on the plants. Can the thrips themselves cause the leaf discoloration, or can they vector a disease that have the symptoms I’m seeing? I have Tribute strawberries, which are day neutral.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Cynthia Farmer,
    Yes, I’d definitely remove the damaged strawberries as they will rot quickly. Also, insect feeding may have caused the issue to begin with. You may want to use a conventional pesticide or an organic alternative to keep the creepies away. And, for best results moving forward, it is a good idea to remove the rest of the June blooms. The everbearers should set a second harvest later in the summer, and those can be harvested and enjoyed! Good luck!

  • Cynthia Farmer

    I have both June bearing and ever bearing plants that ‘re new this year. While on vacation they did not get the blooms picked off. I now have some very small deformed strawberries growing. Many of them look like something has started to eat them. We have them planted in two foot tall planter perimid. With netting over them. Any suggestions? Should I pick all the strawberries now and continue picking the flowers off?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Jackie,
    Feeding by certain insects can indeed cause damage to your strawberries. There are other causes as well. See the page on Deformed Strawberries for more information.

  • Jackie McGuire

    What causes everbearing strawberries to make little, gnarly berries that look like badminton shuttlecocks? They have the medium or large sepals but the berry itself hardly develops or not at all, just coming to a point. Others are small and misshapen with a little bit of actual berry. They keep producing flowers, but many dry up before they even try to develop. I keep them watered and in good soil (I think). Is it a mineral deficiency or a disease? Or maybe thrips?

    Thank you,
    Jackie

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