The Q&A Archives: Tiny Insects on Citrus Blossoms & leaves

Question: I have 7 citrus trees (grapefruit, lime, lemon & orange) and all have very tiny flying bugs not much bigger than a large grain of pepper only long and thin. Are they harmful to the tree, and if so, what can be used to control them? The trees have been blooming about 3 weeks and we have just noticed them now.

Answer: They may be citrus thrips, a tiny insect hard to see with the naked eye. Hold a branch over a sheet of white paper and tap or shake it. Thrips are about 1/16 inch long and look like wood splinters. Under a magnifying glass, you can see a tiny fringe of hairs on their wings. They feed on foliage and the rinds of tiny fruit, usually at late winter/early spring as the tree starts to blossom. Curled and deformed leaves is a result, or scars on mature fruit. Their damage is cosmetic only and does not harm the quality of the fruit or the health of the tree. Do not spray insecticides, which will kill the pollinating insects. Often the damage from thrips is seen after they are long gone, so attempts at control are useless anyway. If after examining the insects, they seem to be something else, please send another email to the Q&A site with more detail and we'll help you figure out what they are.

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