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Myoporum Thrips

Summary: “Myoporum Thrips.” A name of a new San Francisco alternative-rock group or the winning word for the National Spelling Bee? Neither! Actually it's a bug doing lots of damage to certain plant life along the Pacific coastline, but there are new products that really help.

Myoporum thrips are bugs that recently have become nuisances in the United States. Myoporum is a type of flowering shrub that originated in Australia. Thrips are tiny bugs that suck up the juices of such plants to the point the plant dies.

Older style treatments for the thrip include foliar applications of selected pesticides such as Merit 21(imidacloprid) and Conserve (spinosad).  Spinosad is derived from beneficial microbes and has low to moderate adverse impact on natural enemies. In comparison with other insects most thrips are difficult to control effectively with insecticides because of their tiny size, hidden feeding behavior and protected egg and pupal stages. With most thrips species, eggs are protected within plant tissue and pupae are in the soil and will not be killed.

Newer products, like Safari 20 SG Insecticide, are fast-acting insecticides that are  rapidly absorbed by the tree. This results in faster control than with less systemic products and also extends the application window later in the season. When Safari is sprayed on a tree's trunk, it penetrates the bark into the xylem and is then transported upwards to where pests feed.

Myoporum thrips were first discovered in Orange County, California in 2005. Since their arrival, these thrips have spread to many different parts of California, including Santa Barbara, San Diego, Ventura, and Los Angeles. It remains a mystery as to how the bugs arrived in the United States in the first place, but some experts conjecture that they were accidentally delivered from Australia. Too bad the kangaroos couldn't eat up these pests.


Before we learn about the bug, let's learn about the plant. Myoporum is native to Australia and New Zealand. There are Myoporum ground covers and tree species that are widely planted in Southern California because of their minimal water requirements and ease of maintenance. All these factors make it a very desirable plant for the arid California climate. It has white flowers with purple berries. Some varieties of the plant also have pink flower petals. Talk about a great Mother's Day present! One other neat aspect of the Myoporum plant is that it originally there weren't too many predators that fed off of the plant. Unfortunately, this new pest has come along and ruined everything.

If you don't live in these areas, or you don't live in California, you may think you have little concern about Myoporum thrips. Well, think again. There are some disconcerting facts about the plant that may cause concern for people in the United States. Because of the three advantages the plant has, the people of California have planted Myoporum plants on the sides of thousands of miles of roads and highway. The plants look wonderful to passersby and they do not require a lot of work. And, unlike many beautiful flowers and plants, the introduction of pests initially was not a worry. However, now that Myoporum thrips feed off of these plants, the Myoporum plant has become a threat. There are so many of these plants dispersed throughout California that the thrips can easily spread to unaffected areas. And they will have plenty of food to keep them alive and reproducing.

Myoporum plants that have experienced damage by thrips are typically characterized by curled or swollen leaves. They may also produce galls. Galls are unusual growths of plant tissue caused by insect, fungi or parasites feeding off of the plants. They may also be caused by adult thrips laying their eggs in the Myoporum plant. So, if thrips damage a Myoporum shrub, the plant itself will become twisted and its leaves will curl and have galls. Depending on the number of thrips feeding off of the shrub, it may die.

Myoporum tree

Let's move on to the bug. The Myoporum thrip is very similar to the many species of thrips that exist. All thrips are absolutely tiny. They measure no more than 1/20 of an inch. They have long wings and narrow bodies, but do not fly well because they are so small. They can easily be picked up by the wind and scattered to other locations.

The adult Myoporum thrip has a black body, while its larvae are usually orange. These thrips tend to be the only ones that feed on the Myoporum plant. One of the most worrisome facts about the Myoporum thrip is that experts do not know if there are any other insects or animals that prey upon the Myoporum thrip. Populations can explode if no predators exist.

Ask Rick A Question


Helen Robertson
11 Sep 2009, 20:02
Santa Barbara: we had to take down 4 myoporum trees that we put in about 20 years ago. At first, we thought they weren't getting enough water, so we deep watered. The leaves were curling, turning dry and the berries shriveled. There didn't seem to be any hope, so our tree man reduced them to bark-chips. We spread these chips on various part of our garden as ground cover. Wow... did we spread the infestation? We found your article after the fact. HJ
Dale Chabino
06 Feb 2010, 14:03
is there any systemic pest control compound that can be used in the soil around the plants that will kill the thrips when they eat the plant?

26 Apr 2010, 23:35
If we try spraying and it doesn't work, do we then endanger our photina shrubs and pittosporums?

Can these insects bother either a horse or dogs by biting???
Dorothy Cutter
12 May 2010, 18:15
What is the best thing to do to get rid of Thrips
Ask the Exterminator
12 May 2010, 19:34
There is a new product called Safari 20 SG. Works great!
08 Sep 2010, 00:15
How do I know when it's too late for my myoporum? One gardener said it was "peach curl" fungus, but an arborist determined it to be thrips. Can thrips fall into the grass below and bite people?
Ask the Exterminator
09 Sep 2010, 12:16
Thrips will "taste" you if they land on you. That nip is not actually a bite.

When the myoporum has lost its "green", it's dead.
20 Jun 2012, 16:40
Where can we get Safari 20 SG? I am in Northern CA and about to lose an important screen tree in my yard. local gardeners diagnosed spider mites but the symptoms are NOT those of mites, but of this thrip and the shrub is a myoporum. What can I do for it?
Ask the Exterminator
21 Jun 2012, 14:14
Here's a link to buy Safari SC:
09 Nov 2012, 09:57
Rick great article. As an Arborist when we first encountered this disease about 4 years ago we did try the other methods. You are correct the only lasting control is the Safari. We apply it with trunk spray. I do not think homeowners can buy Safari as it requires a pest control license. Keep up the good work.
Ask the Exterminator
09 Nov 2012, 09:59
Actually, homeowners can, in fact, buy Safari as it is not a restricted use pesticide. I sell it on this website.
Safari Browser
17 Dec 2012, 22:28
What is the life cycle of Thrips? Is it possible to synchronize the use of fast acting insecticides like Safari with Thrip lifecycle? We ask because we had an certified arborist apply Safari on a 15y.o. Myo tree heavily infested. After 3 applications in one year the Thrips were gone (!). HOWEVER, we noticed a lot of dead bees/pollinators under the tree. Safari Safety Sheet lists bees as non-target toxic. Recommendations? Thanks!
Steve Todd
11 Feb 2013, 00:01
I tried Bayer Total insect control in mid Oct 2012. I've got new growth on all plants,even the one closest to death. An application in March is planned. I have 40 Fifty year old myoporums, 10 to 25 feet tall
Georgette Topakas
12 May 2015, 20:51
Is the Safari applied full strength to the trunk or diluted? If it's diluted are their directions on the container for trunk absorption?
Ask the Exterminator
12 May 2015, 21:50
Please Read the label. If you are not reading the label you should not be using this powerful product.
Georgette Topakas
13 May 2015, 09:56
Thanks for the condescending answer. I was going to purchase from you, but I'll take my business elsewhere.
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