Chilli thrips, those nasty little pests that have plagued Florida blueberry and pepper growers, have shown up in a big way in Texas.
"They're in the landscape. Ornamental and all agricultural producers need to be concerned too," Scott Ludwig, Texas AgriLife Extension entomologist and integrated pest management specialist in College Station, said in a news release. "What I'm telling growers is that if they're seeing damage that they've never seen before, send a sample in."
So far, the pest has been found only in ornamentals, and most notably roses.
But Ludwig warns they could easily spread into commercial produce crops.
"(The pest) has been reported damaging food and fiber crops too, including vegetables, blueberries, cotton and peanuts," he said in teh release. "The most common plants we've seen them on so far have been roses—all types, including types that were previously thought to be tolerant to pest problems."
Chilli thrips are less than 1/16th of an inch long and are known to attack at least 40 plant families.
In Texas, they have been identified on cleyera, acuba, red maple, Japanese maple, live oaks, pomegranate, roses, ornamental sweet potatoes, begonias and many other ornamentals.
Entomologists say they believe the pest entered the United States via Carribean. They probably originated in Southeast Asia.
Because chilli thrips behave differently than other thrips, they're poised to cause millions of dollars in damage, Ludwig says.
Other types of thrips usually only damage the flowering part plants.
What makes chilli thrips so potentially devastating is that they attack actively growing parts of plants, leaves, buds and stems, Ludwig says.
Because chilli thrips damage the vegetative growth, the whole season's production may be at risk.
For more information on chilli thrips, visit http://chillithrips.tamu.edu.