Chilli Thrips Emerging Pest to Georgia Blueberries

Clint Thompson Blueberries, Georgia

By Clint Thompson

Chilli thrips are emerging as a serious threat to blueberry production in Georgia.

Photo courtesy of University of Georgia/Ash Sial

Ash Sial, University of Georgia entomologist, discussed the pest with AgNet Media at the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah, Georgia.

“It is the most emerging issue. Our key issue is spotted wing drosophila, but thrips are becoming as complex; one of the most important emerging issues, not only in the Southeastern U.S. but across the country,” Sial said. “In Florida, for the past several years, they are four to five years in blueberries and six to seven years in strawberries. What have we heard was in blueberries, (Florida growers) have to spray nine to 12 times to control chilli thrips in one season. Their life cycle is so short that they can go through one generation really quickly.”

Chilli thrips were first confirmed in Georgia two years ago and then observed in eight counties this past year.

“They are basically on the rise in Georgia. We haven’t seen economic issues with it in Georgia yet, but based on our experience with chilli thrips in Florida, we suspect it will become a serious problem here, too,” Sial said. “We have to spray because this can be a lot more serious in damage when compared to the flower thrips. Flower thrips are an issue during the bloom period versus chilli thrips, which are more of a problem after harvest when the bushes push through fresh growth.

“That fresh growth and soft tissue are what the chilli thrips like. They feed on the new growth of tissues, new foliage and cause lots of browning symptoms in the tissue, leading to extreme cases of death of the bushes.”