How to get rid of thrips? 8 clever ways to deter thunder flies from your home

Find out how to get rid of thrips – also known as thunder flies – in your home. There are a ton of clever ways to keep these annoying pests at bay and away from plants

A thunder fly or thrip on a leaf in closeup
(Image credit: vinisouza128 / 500px / Getty)

Want to know how to get rid of thrips? Aka, thunder flies? Thunder flies or thrips, or thripids as they're also known, are small black insects with long bodies and stings in their tails, which they use to puncture plants and other insects they consume. Thunder flies can be annoying in your house and yard because they destroy your garden plants and food. They're also not particularly nice to look at, so although they don't bite humans, if you have many of them around, you'll want to get rid. 

Fortunately, you can use natural garden pest control methods to get rid of thunder flies, without needing to resort to harsh pesticides. Here's how.

How to get rid of thunder flies: prevention is key 

As with most house and garden pests, prevention is usually the best cure with thunder flies. The CEO of Lawn Love (opens in new tab) Jeremy Yamaguchi tells us that 'the best medicine is prevention, so make sure your garden is well-weeded.' If thunder flies are landing on you, it's likely because you are wearing bright clothing - these insects are attracted to bright colors (which is why they also destroy bright flowers in your yard). Try to wear something lighter if they're bothering you. 

1. Use swirski mites as biological control

If you want to keep your pest control measures in line with the requirements of a wildlife garden, then the swirski mite solution should your top choice. Yamaguchi highly recommends 'declaring biological warfare by releasing swirski mites into your garden. They'll eat the thunder flies and leave your flowers alone.' You can ask about swirski mites in your local hardware store or plant nursery.

2. Use colored adhesive strips

Exploiting thunder flies' love of color is an effective strategy when trying to combat them in your yard or house. Yamaguchi advises from his own experience: 'One clever way I've found to be free of them is to buy adhesive colored index cards and use clothes pins to hang them up in your garden. The bright colors will attract the flies and they'll land on the adhesive side and be unable to pry themselves up.'

3. Try the lemon and clove solution

This is a cheap and effective method for combating thunder flies - and you likely have both ingredients in your kitchen already. Robin Antill, the Director at Leisure Buildings (opens in new tab), talks us through this simple thrip-eliminating method: 'for this procedure, all you have to do is stuff as many whole cloves inside a half-lemon as you can accommodate into in the flesh. Let the lemon half do its thing in a basin. Preparation should begin at least a few minutes before you intend to sit down for a garden barbeque or picnic.'

4. Deter them with herbal scents

Did you know that some insects have a keen sense of smell? Thunder flies do have a strong sense of smell, and you can use that to drive them out of our property. Start your herb garden with lavender, rosemary and thyme, which all have smells thunder flies dislike. Antill says: 'There is a number of herbs that can be used as a deterrent for flies when you're growing veggies outside. If you cannot grow your own herbs, dried herbs in cheesecloth can be used in their dry condition. Then, simply hang lights in the areas where they're needed.'

5. Make milk and sugar traps

Another easy, homemade remedy to get rid of thrips involves milk, sugar, and pepper: 'add one bottle of milk, three spoons of sugar, or one spoonful of pepper to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the mixture into a shallow bowl once it has simmered for five to ten minutes. Then spread out the bowls throughout the places that have been infected.'

6. Use lemongrass oil

Lemongrass essential oil, which can be bought on Amazon (opens in new tab), is hated by many pests and will likely help you tackle more than one problem on your property. Simple sprinkle lemongrass oil wherever they're present. If you want to double the effectiveness of this method, Tiffany Payne, of Orangeries UK (opens in new tab), recommends adding 'about 25 to 30 drops of pure thyme oil to about a 1⁄2 cup of water to go and get the most of this method. Clean all of your entrances, window, and infested surfaces with a mixture of rubbing alcohol, dish soap, and water.' The lemongrass plant deters mosquitos and it works for thrips also.

7. Get a citronella candle

Also another excellent way to get rid of mosquitoes in a yard or home, a citronella candle (opens in new tab) will help keep thunder flies at bay. Payne points out that 'new research shows that they can also keep flies away. The citronella candle's aroma will cause the flies to flee in a jiffy.' 

8. Repel them with canned habanero chilli

While cayenne pepper is often referenced as an effective pest control measure, with thunder flies it's canned habanero peppers (opens in new tab) that really seem to do the trick. 'Simply combine Habanero pepper and water in a spray bottle for an effective insect repellent. Apply liberally to locations where flies are a problem, and watch the problem disappear in a flash.'

Why do thunder flies come out?

Thunder flies like a combination of several factors: heat, dry weather with a storm or rain coming, and the presence of bright flowers in your yard, or even bright clothing, all of which they are attracted to. You'll only be bothered by them in the summer because of the heat requirement, but they can become bothersome quite quickly. 

How long do thunder flies live for?

Thunder flies mature in as little as one to two weeks and then live for around 45 days. Fortunately, these pests won't plague your yard or house for a long period of time, they're only really a problem during the summer months. 

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

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