Of the 5,000 species of thrips, several feed on or infest banana fruits. Among these species, the most common are banana rust thrips (Chaetanaphothrips signipennis). Other species that cause harm to the banana plant include banded greenhouse thrips (Hercinothirps femoralis), banana rind thrips (Elixothrips brevisetis), and Hawaiian flower thrips (Thrips hawaiiensis).
Banana rust thrips feed between the fingers of bananas by sucking the plants’ fluids, resulting in rust-colored stains. While the taste and texture of the fruit within these peels remains unaffected, the exterior discoloration reduces the marketability of affected fruit. Banana rust thrips also deposit their larvae into banana skins and feed on the buds of banana flowers. This can result in substantial fruit yield loss, particularly in areas where infestations are severe.
Pesticides are not especially effective in controlling the population of banana thrips. To protect their crops, Hawaiian growers cover their bananas with perforated plastic sleeves. However, banana thrips still are able to infest bunches of bananas, and the availability of the plastic sleeves can be limited. Banana growers are constantly investigating new ways of preventing thrips infestations.