Question: We saw these little bugs/insects on our friend’s orange tree in Tucson — near the Oracle and River roads area — and wondered what they were, and if harmful or not. First saw them about three weeks ago, and last saw them (not so many) about a week ago.
Answer: These insects are called thrips. They can be pests when they feed on flower, fruit and leaf buds. Their feeding causes very small damaged areas but as the flowers, leaves and fruit grow, the areas become larger and appear as discoloration or distortion on the plant surface. Typically, we don’t recommend treating for them because the damage often occurs before we notice them and they don’t affect the taste of the fruit or the ability of the leaves to photosynthesize. If you were selling your fruit to a grocery store, it would be important to spray the trees because shoppers won’t often buy fruit that have scars on the rind.
Peter L. Warren is the Forest Health Program Coordinator for the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management. Questions, photos and videos may be emailed to email@example.com