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Banana silvering thrips- Hercinothrips bicinctus

By N A Martin (2017 revised 2018)

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Hercinothrips bicinctus (Bagnal, 1919)

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Banana silvering thrips, Banana thrips, Smilax thrips

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Heliothrips bicinctus Bagnall, 1913

Heliothrips bifasciipennis Girault, 1926

Click to collapse Taxonomic notes Info

The Banana silvering thrips, Hercinothrips bicinctus (Bagnal, 1919) is one of four species of the subfamily Panchaetothripinae in New Zealand. There are two other adventive species, Greenhouse thrips, Heliothrips haemorrhoidalis (Bouche, 1833), and Palm thrips, Parthenothrips dracaenae (Heeger, 1854) and one endemic species, Hangehange thrips, Sigmothrips aotearoana Ward, 1970. This subfamily is distinguished from other Thripidae by the dorsal surface of the head and prothorax being covered in reticulate sculpture. The maxillary palp is two segmented and the forewing has the first vein more or less fused to the costa. Another distinguishing feature of the four species in New Zealand is that they feed on mature or almost mature plant leaves.

Click to collapse Biostatus and distribution Info

This adventive species of thrips is widespread in New Zealand. It is found outdoors in many tropical and subtropical countries. It is found on native and adventive plants.

Conservation status: Widespread in the New Zealand on native and adventive plants in parks, gardens and native habitats. It may be regarded as a pest on some plants.

Click to collapse Life stages and annual cycle Info

Banana silvering thrips breed all year in Auckland, but are commonest in summer. They live mainly on the mature or almost mature leaves of their host plants as do the other three species of the subfamily Panchaetothripinae found in New Zealand.


Adults like the other active stages of Banana silvering thrips are relatively long and thin. The body is mainly brown and its surface is strongly sculptured and reticulate. The head has two antennae, two compound eyes and on the underside the mouth cone contains a pair of short maxillary stylets and a single stout mandible. The lateral margin of the head is relatively smooth. There are three pairs of brown legs and two pairs of wings that when not used for flying are held over the abdomen. The relatively narrow white forewings have two short dark bands. The tip of the abdomen contains the genitalia. There are males and females, though males are rare in greenhouses. The female also has an ovipositor for inserting eggs into leaves.

Eggs and larvae

Eggs are laid in either the upper or underside of the leaf depending on the plants species. A thin larva hatches from the egg. It is the shape of a tiny white wingless adult. Like the adult it has three pairs of legs, a pair of antennae and the same structures for feeding. There are two larval stages. Juvenile thrips, including prepupae and pupae go to the next stage by moulting. This involves the dorsal skin splitting and the next stage pulling itself out of the old skin. The second larva looks like the first larva and may become yellow-green coloured. The last two segments of the abdomen form a brownish cone with the anus at the tip. There are no setae (hairs) around the tip of the anus to help hold the faecal droplet. For this reason, the droplet frequently runs over the larva's body covering it with dark faecal matter.

Prepupa and Pupa

When the larva is fully grown it drops to the ground and hides in the litter or soil. Here it moults into the prepupa, the first of two non-feeding stages. The prepupa looks like a large larva with short wing buds. The tip of the abdomen has three pairs of spine-like setae, two pairs on segment 9 and one pair on segment 10. The prepupa moults into the pupa. The pupa has longer wing buds and the antennae are folded back over the head. It also has the six spines at the tip of the abdomen. It is assumed that the spines on the tip of the abdomen are used for defence. Both the prepupa and pupa can walk around.

Feeding and plant damage

Banana silvering thrips feed on mature or almost mature leaves rather than young rapidly expanding leaves. Larvae and adults use the stylets in their mouth cone to feed. They puncture plant cells with their single mandible and suck up the plant cell contents with their maxillary stylets. Their feeding kills the surface cells of the leaves creating distinctive pale areas of dead cells. The larvae carry a dark faecal droplet at the tip of the abdomen, that may run over the body or be flicked away at intervals.

Click to collapse Recognition Info

Banana silvering thrips are found on mature or almost mature leaves of host plants with typical thrips feeding damage. With the aid of a strong magnifying glass, they can be distinguished from the other three species in the subfamily Panchaetothripinae. The dorsal surface of the head and prothorax of adults of the New Zealand species in this subfamily is strongly sculptured and reticulate.

Adult Banana silvering thrips, Hercinothrips bicintus body is dark brown and it has narrow wings with dark and pale areas. The wings are similar to those of the Hangehange thrips, Sigmothrips aotearoana but different from Palm thrips, Parthenothrips dracaenae, that has broad wings. Adult Banana silvering thrips and Hangehange thrips are best distinguished by the shape of the head. The lateral margins of the head of the Hangehange thrips have prominent angular projections whereas the lateral margins of the banana silvering thrips head appear smooth. The Greenhouse thrips, Heliothrips haemorrhoidalis, has white bases to its wings and white legs, whereas the Hangehange thrips has brown legs.

Colonies of Banana silvering thrips can easily distinguished from colonies of two species of Panchaetothripinae. Only adults and larvae are present on leaves in colonies of Banana silvering thrips and Hangehange thrips, whereas colonies of Greenhouse thrips, Heliothrips haemorrhoidalis, and Palm thrips may have prepupae and pupae present as well as adults and larvae.

If adults are absent, colonies of Banana silvering thrips and Hangehange thrips can be distinguished if you have access to a binocular microscope. Look at the tip of the abdomen of the larvae. The Hangehange thrips larvae have long setae, but the banana silvering thrips larvae have no setae around the opening. This is the reason larvae are more likely to be covered by dark faecal matter. If the last two abdominal segments are visible, the terminal segment of the banana silvering thrips is almost conical whereas the segment in Hangehange thrips is almost as wide at the tip as it is at the base.

Click to collapse Natural enemies Info

No natural enemies of the Banana silvering thrips have been recorded in New Zealand. It is probably eaten by spiders and insect predators. There may also be an egg parasitoid.

The Banana silvering thrips prepupae and pupae live in the litter or soil. They both have six spines-like setae at the tip of their abdomen. It is assumed that these spines are used for defence.

Click to collapse Host plants Info

The Bananan silvering thrips feed on adventive, cultivated and native plants. They feed on mature or almost mature leaves of trees, shrubs and herbs. The adults and larvae may feed on either side of leaves. In a recent publication, it was reported that in New Zealand, it had been found on 52 species of plants, of which 15 were indigenous. It was the only one of the four species in the subfamily Panchaetothripinae in New Zealand to live on plants in the families Compositae, Convolvulaceae and Solanaceae.

Feeding and plant damage

Banana silvering thrips feed on mature or almost mature leaves rather than young rapidly expanding leaves. Larvae and adults use the stylets in their mouth cone to feed. They puncture plant cells with their single mandible and suck up the plant cell contents with their maxillary stylets. Their feeding kills the surface cells of the leaves creating distinctive pale areas of dead cells. The larvae do carry a dark faecal droplet at the tip of the abdomen, which at intervals runs down over their body. There are usually dried black faecal droplets on leaves where the thrips have been feeding.

Table: Host plants of the Banana silvering thrips, Hercinothrips bicinctus (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) from Plant-SyNZ database (4 July 2017). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (1-10, 10=high).
Common Name(s)Scientific NameFamilyReliability IndexBiostatus
 Hypolepis ambigua (A.Rich.) Brownsey & ChinnockDennstaedtiaceae10endemic
Cunjevol, Elephant's ear, Giant taro, Kape, Ta'ama, 'ApeAlocasia brisbanensis (F.M.Bailey) DominAraceae10naturalised
AngelicaAngelica pachycarpa LangeUmbelliferae10naturalised
New Zealand celery, Sea celery, Shore celery, Tūtae kōauApium prostratum Labill. ex Vent.Umbelliferae10indigenous, non-endemic
Cruel plant, Kapok vine, Moth plant, White bladder flowerAraujia horturum E.Fourn.Apocynaceae10naturalised
Arum, Arum lilyArum sp.Araceae5naturalised
Bloodflower, Redhead cotton bushAsclepias curassavica L.Apocynaceae10naturalised
Bridal veil creeper, SmilaxAsparagus asparagoides (L.) DruceAsparagaceae10naturalised
 Brugmansia ×insignis (Barb.Rodr.) Lockwood ex R.E.SchultesSolanaceae10naturalised
Great bindweed, Greater bindweedCalystegia silvatica (Kit.) Griseb.Convolvulaceae10naturalised
Climbing convolvulus, New Zealand bindweed, Pōuwhiwhi, Pōwhiwhi, Rarotawake (edible roots)Calystegia tuguriorum (G.Forst.) R.Br. ex Hook.f.Convolvulaceae10indigenous, non-endemic
Clustered bellflowerCampanula glomerata L.Campanulaceae10cultivated
Creeping bellflower, Creeping campanulaCampanula rapunculoidea L.Campanulaceae10naturalised
CentauryCentaurium erythraea RafnGentianaceae10naturalised
Night-scented Jessamine, Queen of the nightCestrum nocturnum L.Solanaceae10naturalised
 Chenopodium sp.Amaranthaceae7unknown
Chysanthemum, Florist's chrysanthemumChrysanthemum ×morifolium RamatCompositae6cultivated
Kākawariki, Kanono, Kapukiore, Karamū-kueo, Kueo (fruit), Manono, Pāpāuma, Raurēkau, ToherāoaCoprosma grandifolia Hook.f.Rubiaceae10endemic
TaupataCoprosma repens A.Rich.Rubiaceae10endemic
Glossy karamu, Kākaramū, Kākarangū, Karamū, Kāramuramu, KarangūCoprosma robusta RaoulRubiaceae10endemic
CriniumCrinum sp.Amaryllidaceae7cultivated
Tree dahliaDahlia imperialis Roezel ex OrtgiesCompositae10naturalised
Red escalloniaEscallonia rubra (Ruiz & Pav.) Pers.Escalloniaceae7naturalised
Russian vineFallopia aubertii (L.Henry) HolubPolygonaceae10naturalised
 Farfugium japonicum (L.) Kitam. var. giganteum (Siebold & Zucc.) Kitam.Compositae10cultivated
Cleavers, GoosegrassGalium aparine L.Rubiaceae10naturalised
Swan plant, Narrow-leaf cotton bushGomphocarpus fruticosus (L.) W.T.AitonApocynaceae10naturalised
Ivy, English ivyHedera helix L.Araliaceae10naturalised
Kahili ginger, Wild gingerHedychium gardnerianum Ker Gawl.Zingiberaceae8naturalised
Ox tongue, OxtongueHelminthotheca echioides (L.) HolubCompositae10indigenous, non-endemic
Blue morning gloryIpomoea indica (Burman) Merr.Convolvulaceae10naturalised
JacarandaJacaranda mimosifolia D.DonBignoniaceae10cultivated
Red hot poker, Torch lily, TritomaKniphofia sp.Asphodelaceae7unknown
NipplewortLapsana communis L.Compositae10naturalised
Japanese honeysuckleLonicera japonica Thunb.Caprifoliaceae10naturalised
African boxthorn, BoxthornLycium ferocissimum MiersSolanaceae10naturalised
Black parsley, Parsnip palmMelanoselinum decipiens (Schrad. & J.C.Wendl.) Hoffm.Umbelliferae10naturalised
Houkūmara, Koheriki, Tākaka, Tātaka, Wharangi, WharangipiroMelicope ternata J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Rutaceae10endemic
NgaioMyoporum laetum G.Forst.Scrophulariaceae10endemic
Banana passionfruit, Northern banana passionfruitPassiflora mixta L.f.Passifloraceae10naturalised
Dyeberry, Inkweed, Red ink plantPhytolacca octandra L.Phytolaccaceae10naturalised
Pepper tree, Kawa, KawakawaPiper excelsum G.Forst.Piperaceae10endemic
Creeping buttercupRanunculus repens L.Ranunculaceae10naturalised
Bullibul, Bullibulli, Kangaroo apple, Pōpopo, Poroporo, PoroporotanguruSolanum aviculare G.Forst.Solanaceae10indigenous, non-endemic
Velvety nightshadeSolanum chenopodioides Lam.Solanaceae10naturalised
Bullibul, Bullibulli, Large kangaroo apple, Pōpopo, Poroporo, PoroporotanguruSolanum laciniatum AitonSolanaceae10indigenous, non-endemic
Apple of Peru, Peruvian apple, TomatoSolanum lycopersicum L.Solanaceae8naturalised
Flannel leaf, Kerosene plant, Tobacco weed, Wild tobacco tree, Woolly nightshadeSolanum mauritianum Scop.Solanaceae10naturalised
Black nightshade, Blackberry nightshade, Garden huckleberry, Pōporo, Poroporo, Raupeti, RemuroaSolanum nigrum L.Solanaceae10naturalised
Small-flowered nightshade, Pōporo, Poroporo, Raupeti, RemuroaSolanum nodiflorum Jacq.Solanaceae10indigenous, non-endemic
Christmas cherry, Jerusalem cherry, Madeira winter cherry, Winter cherrySolanum pseudocapsicum L.Solanaceae10naturalised
Common sow thistle, Sow thistle, Milky thistle, Pororua, Pūhā, Pūwhā, RaurikiSonchus oleraceus L.Compositae10naturalised
Hedge stachys, Hedge woundwortStachys sylvatica L.Labiatae10naturalised
 Tecomanthe speciosa W.R.B.Oliv.Bignoniaceae10endemic
New Zealand climbing spinach, Kōkihi, Rengamutu, Rengarenga, Tūtae-ikamoanaTetragonia implexicoma (Miq.) Hook.f.Aizoaceae10indigenous, non-endemic
HebeVeronica stricta Banks & Sol. ex Benth. var. strictaPlantaginaceae10endemic

Click to collapse Additional information Info

Reproduction and Parthenogenisis in Thysanoptera

In Thysanoptera, females are diploid (2 sets of chromosomes) and males are haploid (one set of chromosomes). Males are produced from unfertilised eggs. This type of reproduction is called Arrhenotoky. The proportion of males to females in a population is variable. In Palm thrips this appears to be related to temperature. In a warm greenhouse (25-28°C) there are very few males, 6-7 per 100 females, while in a cooler greenhouse (18-20°C) there are more males. Where there are very few or no males, females can reproduce without fertilisation. This is called Thelotoky, form of parthenogenesis. In populations where there are very few males there are probably two types of female present, Arrhenotokous and Thelotokous.

Palm thrips is the first species from the Thysanoptera order that was found to be capable of thelytokous parthenogenetic reproduction. This characteristic is contained in the Latin name of the genus, Parthenothrips.

Click to collapse Information sources Info

Lewis T. 1973. Thrips their biology, ecology and economic importance. Academic Press, London, UK. Pp. 1-349.

Martin NA. 2016. Distinguishing feature of immature stages of Panchaetothripinae (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) known in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 43 (4): 1-8.

Martin NA. 2017. Host plants of Panchaetothripinae (Thysanoptera: Terebrantia: Thripidae) in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 44 (1): 1-8.

Martin NA, Mound LA. 2004. Host plants for some New Zealand thrips (Thysanoptera: Terebrantia). New Zealand Entomologist. 27: 119-123.

Mound LA, Walker AK. 1982. Terebrantia (Insecta: Thysanoptera). Fauna of New Zealand. 1: 1-113.

Plant-SyNZ: Invertebrate herbivore-host plant association database.

Click to collapse Acknowledgements Info

The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited (Plant & Food Research) for permission to use photographs.

Landcare Research New Zealand Limited (Landcare Research) for permission to use photographs.

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Click to collapse Update history Info

1 December 2018. NA Martin. Changed symbol used for apostrophes.

1 August 2018. NA Martin. Photos of damage to Coprosma repens added.

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