Thrips or Spider Mites? How to tell the difference

The signs of thrips and spider mites are very similar, making it pretty difficult to see the difference between Thrips and spider mites.
Thankfully they are some ways to identify whether you’re dealing with Spider mites or Thrips.

close up on spider mites and thrips on marijuana

Telling the difference between Spider mites and Thrips can be a little tricky at first. Since they both feed on the chlorophyll present in the leaves, they leave small white spots on them which is generally why they are confused.

Apart from that similarity they actually have nothing to do with one another, they’re not even in the same family! Thrips are insects and spider mites are part of the Arachnid family.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

What are the difference between Thrips and Spider Mites?

The main difference within the symptoms of spider mites is the way the white (or grayish) marks appear. With mites the white marks appear mainly along the main-rib and veins of the leaves whereas with Thrips it will be randomly distributed.

This is due to the fact that the mites live under the leaf and the thrips move around (or fly around) on the top of the leaves.
Let’s get into the differences in detail:

Detailed differences between Mites and Thrips


Spider Mites

 Symptom differences
on Marijuana
  • White bite marks are randomly spread out on the leaf
  • Live on top of the leaves. By looking closely you can see them crawling around.
  • Spreading can occur randomly across the plants.
  • White bite marks are centered along the main rib and veins of the leaves
  • Live under the leaves.
    The best way to see them is placing a white paper under an infested leaf and tapping on it.
    If you have spidermites you’ll see things (eggs and mites) fall on the paper.
  • Spreading occurs by touching leaves or nearest plants.
Where do they live
on the plant
Above the leaves. Once Thrips are big enough by looking close enough you will be able to see them crawling around.Below the leaves – Spider mites live under, lay eggs and die under the leaves. It’s very hard to see individual mites but by looking under the leaf you can notice the black dots.
WebbingNo.Yes – Webbing will appear under the leaf at first. Once the colony is well developed it will spread to the buds.
Here’s a step by step evolution
Infestation methodWhen they can fly they will do so from one part of the room to the next.
If they are not able to fly than they will crawl from leaf to leaf or by going down one plant and up to then next.
From leaf to leaf or by crawling down the plant and up the next.
Flight possibilitySometimes – Depending on the specie thrips are able to live.
Generally the one’s that invade Marijuana cultures have the ability to fly.
This is the main reason why you’ll notice random spreading making you think “how the hell did they get there”.
No – Spider mites being a part of the Arachnid family they cannot fly.
Egg locationThrips lay their eggs within the soft tissue of the plant.

This isn’t damaging to the plant itself but protects the eggs.

Mites lay their eggs within the webbing under the leaves or across the bugs, depending on the size of the colony
Hatching period2 to 7 days, depending on the specie3 to 5 days, depending on the specie
LifespandUp to 45 daysMost species live between 14 and 21 days
SizeBetween 0.5 mm and 1.5 mmUnder 1.0 mm

What are the similarities between Thrips and Spider Mites?

Thrips and Spider mites actually have a couple things in common, whether it’s where they feed or the environment they live in.
Let’s get into it:

Similarities between Mites and Thrips

SimilaritiesSpider Mites and Thrips
 EnvironmentThey both enjoy hot and dry environment. Over 25°C (77°F) and under 30% Humidity.
 FeedingSpider mites and Thrips feed on the chlorophyll within the leaves of the plant.
That is the reason why you can see the white spots
Hibernation phasesThrips born in late summer will go into diapause until spring time where the specie can thrive again.

Spider mites eggs on their end can stay in hibernation mode for months until they are waken up.
On top of that eggs can develop resistance to treatment methods, producing some super un-killable spider mites.

 Treatment methods As long as your spider mite colony hasn’t developed an immunity, all mainstream organic or chemical pesticides are effective on both (ex: neem oil).

Alright guys that’s it for this one; We’re going to keep adding some info here so if you have a specific question don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form our our little questionnaire on the bottom right.
In the mean time check out our grow journal or our other tips!


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