Do Thrips Bite People? Does It Hurt?

The onion, the potato, the tobacco or the cotton seedling thrips - Thrips tabaci (order Thysanoptera). It is important pest of many plants.
© Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock.com

Written by Alanna Davis

Published: April 20, 2024

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As temperatures begin to rise, many people return to their yards to spend time outdoors throughout the season. Although this is a very exciting time for many, the warmer months invite some unwelcome guests as well. Garden visitors like wasps, hornets, and mosquitos can be a nuisance to have around. However, there are other garden pests that are lesser known and rarely seen. Among them are thrips, which have a reputation for damaging plants. While these insects might be dangerous to plants, do humans have to worry about them as well? Let’s discuss whether or not thrips bite people and explore other important facts about these insects.

Thrips: A Brief Overview

The onion, the potato, the tobacco or the cotton seedling thrips - Thrips tabaci (order Thysanoptera). It is important pest of many plants.

The average lifespan of a thrip is roughly 40 days in length.

©Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock.com

Even if you’ve heard of thrips before, chances are you’ve rarely seen them. These garden pests are insanely tiny, and many only measure to be between 1/8 and 1/16 of an inch at maturity. Despite their small size, they are capable of causing extensive damage to gardens. According to the University of Georgia Extension, “Thrips damage causes discoloration, distortion, premature drying, and shedding of leaves, flowers, and buds … Feeding can also impact a plant’s ability to grow, causing stunting or dwarfing. Infested fruits are discolored, deformed, and scabby.”

Do Thrips Bite or Sting?

Although these insects are unwelcome guests due to the plant damage they cause, there are other reasons people might dislike thrips. Even though they can’t sting, thrips do bite humans. However, this is not for the reasons you may have thought. Unlike other insects such as wasps and dragonflies who will bite or sting when they feel threatened, thrips only bite because they’re looking for food. The sweat and moisture on human skin are enticing to them, and many bite humans because they’re hungry. Luckily, these bites shouldn’t be any cause for concern as they are essentially harmless, if not a little annoying.

Does Getting Bit by a Thrip Hurt?

As you can see, thrips are very small. But they can be seen by the naked eye.

Spotting a thrip with the naked eye may be challenging as these insects are very tiny.

©Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

Because thrips are so small, the thought of them biting can be very scary for many. If you’re unable to see them, how will you know if one is about to attack? Even though this is an uncomfortable thought, the truth is that thrip bites aren’t painful at all. In fact, many people who receive a bite from these insects will only experience mild irritation at worst. If you find yourself in this situation, try not to worry too much. Individuals who get bit don’t need to seek professional medical attention. Cleaning the site of the bite with alcohol and monitoring it to see if the irritation subsides is sufficient treatment.

If You Get Nipped…

In essence, although thrips have the ability to bite, their bites are harmless. The worst many people will experience is slight irritation and a rash. The sensation of the bite itself might be a little alarming, but these insects don’t produce any venom, so there’s little to worry about. Keep this in mind next time you decide to walk barefoot through your yard!


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About the Author

Alanna is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering insects, animals, and travel. In addition to writing, she spends her time tutoring English and exploring the east end of Long Island. Prior to receiving her Bachelor's in Economics from Stony Brook University, Alanna spent much of her time studying entomology and insect biology.

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