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.

Adult female bean flower thrips.

Adult female bean flower thrips.   

In the past three years, it became established in Florida, Mexico, Central America and part of the Caribbean. Specifically, in Florida, the thrips is in Hendry, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It damages leaves, flowers and bean pods.

“Snap beans are an important part of Florida’s agricultural economy, and South Florida is the primary producer of snap beans for the United States during winter months,” said Hugh Smith, a University of Florida entomologist at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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 (FDACS) 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.

Jamie Hernandez, left, and Tiffani Long from the lab of UF/IFAS entomologist Hugh Smith, look through microscopes to examine bean flower thrips -- known scientifically as Megalurothrips  usitatus.       				              UF/IFAS

Jamie Hernandez, left, and Tiffani Long from the lab of UF/IFAS entomologist Hugh Smith, look through microscopes to examine bean flower thrips -- known scientifically as Megalurothrips usitatus. 

In March, Smith led a training in Guatemala on identification and management of the thrips in collaboration with the Instituto de Ciencias y Tecnología Agrícolas (ICTA). The training was attended by agronomists and bean breeders from across Central America and Colombia with a common interest in combating this new pest. 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 this 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.

This Spanish news segment highlights the recent research project in Guatemala led by Smith. Smith traveled to Central America to present research on the new pest affecting bean production. For ENGLISH – click the Closed Caption icon in the lower right corner of the video and then click the Settings icon to choose the language you prefer for your captions.

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