Bean flower thrips, known by the scientific name of Megalurothrips usitatus, attacks such legumes as beans and peas. In some cases, it can wipe out an entire field of crops.
In the past three years, it became established in Florida, Mexico and Central America. Specifically, in Florida, the thrips is in Hendry, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Bean flower thrips has seriously impacted Florida’s snap bean industry in the Homestead area and currently threatens bean production in much of Central America, where beans are a food staple. The thrips also damages important export crops including snow peas and French beans.
Within the United States, this species is limited to south Florida, where it was first confirmed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in 2020. This thrips was documented in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Cuba over the past two years. It damages foliage, flowers and pods of legumes.
On March 16-17, UF/IFAS entomologist Hugh Smith went to Guatemala to train agronomists and bean breeders from across Central America and Colombia. Smith is also working with a graduate student in Guatemala to try to find strategies for farmers in Central America, Mexico and Southeast Florida to control the thrips more effectively.
Their work could help growers save money on insecticides, which are thus far the only method known to control the thrips. Smith has demonstrated that some insecticides are effective, and he’s investigating other approaches - including insects that would prey on this thrips species - but so far, the only guidelines are insecticides.