Insects on Petunias

Asked June 11, 2020, 7:58 PM EDT

Something has been eating the blooms on my petunias. I discovered the insects (tiny specks on the white bloom) in the photo this evening. The blooms are covered in them. This has been going on for a couple of weeks now, but this is the first time I have observed the actual insect. Although the leaves don't look healthy, I could not locate anything on them this evening. I have been using insecticidal soap and neem oil (7 day schedule), but it does not seem to help much. I have several pots of petunias and they all seem to be afflicted. Is there some way to salvage the plants?

Frederick County Maryland

1 Response

These insects are known as thrips. Their populations are usually controlled by predatory insects but outbreaks occur. In the case of your petunias, we'd recommend that you pinch off all the flowers and dispose of them in a garbage bag. Try not to knock them off the flowers as you remove them.

There is plenty of time for the plants to put out new blooms. If the thrips populations is low enough, the plants should get through the summer all right. If the problem continues to a degree that ruins the blooms, you may have to simply replace the plants.

Read this to understand how thrips get here: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/thrips-flowers

Ellen