Distinguishing pest and non-pest species
Currently around 6,500 species of thrips are known worldwide. Nearly 900 thrips species are currently recognised and described in Australia, but double this number may exist.
Many species feed only on leaves, whilst others only on flowers, however very few eat both. Almost 50 per cent of known thrips species feed only on fungi, and a few eat other arthropods.
Globally about 100 species have been recorded as pests of crops, and ten of these are carriers (vectors) of damaging Tospoviruses - a plant infecting virus.
Developing identification systems
Extensive fieldwork is being conducted to establish the biology and host-plant relationships in the Thysanoptera.
An essential component of our Thysanoptera research is the laboratory work to develop the microscope slide collection of thrips. Also of importance is the development of web-based information and identification systems to aid economic entomology.
In 2014, research has produced identification systems to many of the thrips that are involved in the recycling of nutrients from dead leaves and branches. Identification systems have also been published for groups of Thysanoptera from Southeast Asia, mainly because the thrips fauna of northern Australia includes many Asian taxa.
Studies on the Australian thrips fauna resulted in a computer-based identification and information system to 330 species, in about 100 genera.