How to get rid of Thrips

The simplest way to detect a thrips population is to conduct a thorough visual inspection of the area.

Another method is to hang (or lay) sticky paper in and around your potted plants. As the thrips move about, they’ll get stuck on the paper, and you’ll be cleaning up the population at the same time!

Thrips are very tiny (often under 1/20th of an inch), and there are thousands of species, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to identify the exact species. Still, the good news is that most plant-feeding thrips are eminently treatable.

There are three primary ways to get thrips:


Exclusion is one of the best natural ways to deal with thrips. Because there are no insecticides or chemicals used, It’s entirely environmentally friendly.

For it to work, you’ll need to establish the entry point. Indoor thrips infestations almost always come from potted plants being brought inside.

If you’ve recently brought in an outdoor plant, either to relocate for the season or because you’ve cut off flowers for display — make sure to inspect it thoroughly for visible evidence of thrips.

Thrips feed on the plants they infest by puncturing the outer wall of the leaves/stalks and sucking out the juices. This leads to tell-tale signs, such as:

  • Silver color to the leaves
  • White blotches of scars
  • Black feces left behind

Taking a close look at the plant, if any of these signs are evident, it’s quite likely that you’ve found the source of your thrips infestation.

Excluding thrips from your home can be as simple as putting the plant back outside, or trying to remove the infestation from the plant. You can eliminate the infestation through pruning, insecticides, or by using integrated pest management (i.e., introducing ladybugs or other natural thrips predators).


Insecticides are effective in treating thrips but be forewarned that due to their size, it can be difficult to make an effective one-step treatment.

Pyrethrin based insecticides seem to be the tool of choice for most pest management professionals in the US.

If you’re taking a DIY approach, make sure that you carefully follow the application instructions of the pesticide that you’re going to use. Many pesticides are meant for direct application onto the bugs, and given that thrips are often physically living on plants, you’ll need to be aware of how the chemicals will interact with the plant.

Systemic insecticides may be a good option for rapidly dealing with large agricultural infestations, which allow the plant to circulate the insecticide. This method ensures that wherever the thrips decide to feed, they’ll get an adequate dose of the chemicals.

Integrated Pest Management

Thrips have many natural predators that can help wipe out a thrips population without damaging the plants they’re living on.

This method is generally reserved for large, commercial agricultural applications, but those with greenhouses can also benefit.

Some commonly integrated pests:

  • predatory thrip
  • green lacewings
  • pirate bugs
  • mites

How long does it take to get rid of Bed Bugs?

It’s hard to give a number on DIY treatments, but let’s give it a shot. Let’s take a look at some basic facts about bed bugs and see if we can figure out a rough timeline:

  • Bed bugs live for 2-6 months on average (though some can survive up to a year without a meal)
  • They change stages five times in their life, each time requiring a meal (no meal means no growth stage)
  • Pregnant females can lay 3-5 eggs per day (about 500 per lifetime)
  • Each egg takes roughly two weeks to hatch (this is why treatments are typically done every two weeks)

Those are the biological variables we’re concerned with. Now, since each situation is different, let’s look at the other environmental factors that can impact the timeframe.

How many are there?

Large infestations may mean large numbers of eggs left behind. Even if you address all of the active bed bugs, you still have to contend with the eggs, which can be hidden more deeply and are less visible.

While it doesn’t quite scale linearly (a 2x infestation does not take twice as long), a more extensive infestation can require more treatment pressure over time.

How widespread are they?

If the infestation is in a multi-tenant housing complex, like an apartment, dorm, or hotel, it’s essential to know whether or not the bed bugs have migrated into other living spaces.

It’s also likely that once you begin treatment, they’ll leave your area and move into a neighbor’s — only to return when it’s safe again. They can ping-pong between locations like this almost indefinitely.

Cooperation is required in these types of buildings, and treatments should happen as close to simultaneously as possible.

In single-family households, it’s important to inspect all rooms and corridors to be able to provide equal, simultaneous treatment. The critical thing to remember is that once treatment pressure is put on them, they’ll escape quickly to another area. It would be best if you made sure to remove that possibility by making all accessible areas inhospitable.

Do they have good hiding places?

One major step in the treatment process is to eliminate any good hiding spots. Bed bugs love clutter, as it provides lots of nooks and crannies to crawl into.

Homes can become very difficult to effectively treat if they’re filled with lots of books, magazines, piles of clothing, full cardboard boxes — you get the idea. Also, take note of the condition of the walls and floor, fixing any cozy spots created by things like peeling paint or wallpaper.

Have we addressed the source?

It’s important to understand how the bed bugs arrived in the first place. Even the best treatment protocol can be unsuccessful long term if they’re continually re-introduced to your home.

If you’re picking them up intermittently through travel, taking some time to familiarize yourself with [how to check for bed bugs] can be a good idea.

What’s the fastest way to get rid of bed bugs?

Bed bugs are one of the more persistent pests that we deal with. They’re highly resistant to most conventional pest control methods — and they’re hard to target.

The fastest way to get rid of them is to have a professional do a heat treatment. Exposure to high heat (above 118 degrees Fahrenheit) kills bed bugs. However, it can be challenging to get the heated air to circulate and permeate all of the crevices where they’re hiding, especially if they’re not congested in a single area.

Chemical applications suffer many of the same drawbacks, and they also can be less effective due to operator error. Your pest management professional will need to spray all locations physically and can much more easily overlook a spot that heat would have covered.

How long do Bed Bugs live?

First, we should begin by saying that it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get rid of bed bugs by waiting for them to die off.

Females lay anywhere from 1-7 eggs per day — and most of them are going to hatch (97+% in most home environments).

However, it is certainly possible, given enough time, and a complete lack of food, that an infestation can die off. You’ll need to vacate for at least a year, probably 18 months, to be safe. Cold temperatures will stretch this timeframe out, and warm temperatures will shorten it. That said, there are far more effective and fast ways to get rid of bed bugs.

In general, many variables can have an impact on the lifespan of a bed bug. The first clue depends on their life stage.

Life and growth stages

Bed bugs have five distinct live stages, beginning as a nymph, and ending as a fully developed adult. Molting requires a lot of energy, so each stage transition requires a full blood meal to complete.

  • Eggs (1mm in length). Eggs take about 10-15 days to hatch in most home environments.
  • 1st stage nymph (1.5 mm in length).
  • 2nd stage nymph (2 mm in length).
  • 3rd stage nymph (2.5 mm in length).
  • 4th stage nymph (3 mm in length).
  • 5th stage nymph (4.5 mm in length).
  • Adult

Progression from 1st stage nymph to adult takes approximately five weeks with regular meals and a good environment — but can take longer if feeding is infrequent or intermittent.

Depending on the stage (and therefore maturity), the bugs can go longer without food. Nymphs can last about two weeks without a meal, while adults can go as long as a year under the right conditions.

How long do bed bugs live without blood?

It might seem counterintuitive, but bed bugs can live longer without a meal than they can if they are regularly feeding.

There’s a biological process by which they slow their metabolism down in the absence of food. Temperature also plays a part, with lower temperatures sustaining the bugs longer.

The single most significant threat to bed bugs is dehydration. They rely solely on a blood meal for hydration, and in a warm environment without people to feed on, they dry up pretty quickly (about 70 days in controlled laboratory observation). This is also why they try to find tight crevices to hide in — to create a tiny little habitat with a favorable temperature and humidity.

How do you get Bed Bugs?

Nearly everyone who discovers they have bed bugs has the same first question:

“How did I get bed bugs?”

The short answer is that you probably brought them home.

Do you have any new furniture or clothing that you purchased secondhand at a resale shop? Have you just returned from a long summer abroad?

As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Understanding how these little critters get into your bed can go a long way towards making sure that you stay bed-bug free in the future.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: you don’t get bed bugs because you’re dirty. There’s a stigma attached to having bed bugs, but the fact is that it’s probably not your fault.

Bed bugs don’t migrate indoors from the outside. You can’t attract them by being unclean, or by having a dirty home.

How do bed bugs spread?

For the most part, you have to have brought them with you. Yes, it’s gross, but it’s probably true.

Bed bugs are crawlers; they don’t fly or jump.

Bed bugs are also very good clingers — they’ll cling on to clothing, furniture, and all kinds of soft textiles. Many vintage clothing and antique (mid-century modern, anyone?) collectors have ended up unknowingly introducing bed bugs into their homes with their latest acquisitions.

Common culprits:

  • purses
  • clothing and laundry
  • travel bags
  • secondhand upholstered furniture

It’s not just the item; it’s where you put it, too. A purse, for example, is a target because it’s often laid on the floor, left on a couch, or set on the bed (all very good spots to find bugs).

If you haven’t brought anything new into the home, you likely brought them in from another location that you visited recently. Travel is one of the most common ways to pick up bed bugs, but it doesn’t have to be a big trip: even the subway can be infested with bugs.

New York City subways have had to be fumigated for bed bugs multiple times over the years. Any number of riders could have picked them up and brought them home on their clothing or bags.

Even though they can’t jump or fly, bed bugs can migrate easily from apartment to apartment or dorm to dorm. Multi-tenant buildings are common locations for infestations.

How to avoid bringing bed bugs home

Once they’re in your things, bed bugs can live for a tremendous amount of time. The good news is that there are a few steps you can take to help mitigate your chances of taking home an unwanted hitchhiker.

Know the risk areas

Bed bugs are attracted to warm-blooded animals. Anywhere that you’ll sit, sleep, or lean on could facilitate a transmission.

Due to significantly higher amounts of nightly turnover, hotels, hostels, and homeless shelters can be high-risk locations. Again, it has very little to do with how clean these places are; it’s just a function of how many people they serve. More people means a higher likelihood that one of them brought bed bugs in with them.

Know where to keep your things

When traveling, you should avoid placing your luggage (and clothes) anywhere that bed bugs might be tempted to crawl. Experts suggest that you should stick to using luggage racks, found in most rooms.

  • Don’t lay your clothes out on the bed before a shower, no matter how briefly.
  • Consider keeping your worn clothes in a sealed plastic bag until you get home.

Know how to perform a quick inspection

The tell-tale signs of a bed bug infestation are:

  • Black or rust-colored spots (fecal deposits)
  • Shed/molted skin shells
  • Hatched eggshells
  • Bloodstains (around pressure points in mattresses or under sheets)

Furniture and other items should be thoroughly inspected. Pay close attention to fabric seams, flaps, buttons, and any other indentations that might provide some shelter or darkness for hiding bugs. Carefully check all joints and places where wood or structural components meet and come together.

The most common place to find bed bugs in a hotel or hostel is around the headboard, especially if it’s wall-mounted.

Keep an eye out for any peeling paint or wallpaper that the bugs can tuck under. Also, look for signs around light switch plates or power outlets.

Know what to do after you get home

Heat is very effective at killing bed bugs. Once you arrive home from a hotel or somewhere that you suspect may have had bed bug potential, you should run your clothes through a hot wash, ending with a hot dryer cycle.

If the item isn’t machine washable, you should consider placing it into a vacuum-sealed bag. Be warned: it might be in there a while, as bed bugs can survive up to a year without a meal.

How to check for Bed Bugs

In just a couple of minutes, you can sleep soundly, knowing that the bed bugs won’t bite.

To spot bed bugs, it helps to learn a little about their behavior.

Bed bugs hide during the day

Unless an infestation is particularly bad, you probably won’t walk into a hotel room and see them crawling on the mattress. They’re much shyer than that. There are literally unlimited ways you can get bed bugs — so the trick is in learning how to deal with them.

Bed bugs like to be close to their prey

They feed on animal blood (yours), and they don’t like to be far from a potential meal. They typically congregate around areas that humans are likely to be:

  • beds
  • chairs
  • couches
  • blankets

Exterminators are also trained to look at the surrounding room. Often you’ll find signs of an infestation in the corners, under peeling paint or wallpaper, behind light switch plates, or coming out of electrical sockets.

Signs of Bed Bugs

Bed bug infestations often leave tell-tale signs of their presence.

  • Black or rusty fecal deposits: looks kind of like a cluster of dirt specks
  • Molted shells: bed bugs shed their skin during each of the five growth stages
  • Eggshells: bed bugs colonies can produce hundreds of eggs in a short time, and once the nymphs hatch they leave behind the shell
  • Blood spots: their bodies fill with blood while feeding, and when they’re squished they leave small blood spots

If you’ve got a bug specimen that you suspect might be a bed bug, you can view our visual guide to identifying bed bugs.

How to inspect a mattress for bed bugs

The vast majority of infestations happen in and around mattresses. It’s also the first place we recommend that you look if you’re staying in a new location.

Step 1: Remove any blankets and sheets from the mattress and box spring.

It’s rare to find bed bugs free-roaming during the daytime. To perform an inspection, you’ll need to strip the bed entirely. Carefully pull back the comforter, flat sheet (if applicable), and the fitted sheet. Take a quick look at them as you do so and scan for any signs of bed bugs.

Step 2: Inspect the bed frame and headboard.

Not only do bed bugs wait close to their prey, but they also scurry back into hiding after a meal. Pest management specialists will thoroughly inspect a bed frame by lifting the mattress (and box spring) and looking at each of the joints and cracks in the structure.

Check behind your headboard, looking in each nook and cranny. Bed bugs love crevices that provide some darkness and safety. Don’t forget to look at any bolts or hardware that hold the bed frame together.

Note: sometimes hotels will have headboards that are directly attached to the wall. This is a bed bugs paradise — try to shine a light behind there and get a good look. If you don’t have a flashlight handy, you can always grab the lamp and try to maneuver some light in the gap between the headboard and the wall.

Step 3: Inspect all of the seams, tufted buttons, and tags.

On the mattress, you’ll find a series of great hiding spots. Around the perimeter of a mattress, you’ll find a strip on the outer cover that can be folded over. Look carefully there, on both sides.

Next, if your mattress is tufted with buttons, make sure to visually inspect each, lifting it a little if possible. Be extra cautious around any loose ones.

Mattresses ship with a variety of tags attached, which, if lifted or peeling, can make wonderful homes for bed bugs. Make sure to feel around each of the various tags and stickers.

Step 4: Flip the mattress and do both sides.

If you’re able to stand the mattress up against a wall, or flip it entirely and repeat the process. Experts say that you’re more likely to find bed bugs on the underside than you are the topside.

Step 5: Look at the box spring frame, particularly any joints or areas where the fabric has come loose.

Box springs are one of the most common places that exterminators find bed bugs. The good news is that they’re much more affordable than a mattress to replace.

The first thing to check is the fabric that seals the top and bottom. If it’s torn, you’ll need to carefully peel it back and gain access to the inner structure.

You’ll probably need a light for this (we recommend traveling with a flashlight for this reason), but you should try to visually inspect any joints or places where wood or metal overlap and create a pocket or crevice.

One last tip: always check the floor after you’re done because all of the motion and activity can knock the shells and skins loose. Even if you don’t find anything on the items, you can still discover an infestation that way.