From the life of thunderstorm animals

From the life of thunderstorm animals

the essentials in brief

  • Thunderstorm animals can be effectively combated with home remedies such as nettle stock, soapy water, neem oil or sticky traps
  • Thunderstorm animals mostly feed on sap and cause damage similar to aphids; however, there are also predatory species that function as pest killers and destroy mites, scale insects and their eggs
  • Beneficial organisms such as flower bugs, lacewing larvae and predatory mites feed on thrips

What helps against thunderstorm animals?

Thunderstorm animals appear suddenly and take advantage of good living conditions. If they settle on houseplants, they will find a plentiful supply of food and reproduce en masse. To get the spread under control, gentle methods or home remedies have proven themselves. You should generally avoid chemical insecticides. These endanger your health and not only harm unwanted insects.

also read

  • These beneficial insects live in your garden
  • About the life of the gall wasp
  • The secret life of the great angle spider


The tiny insects are magically attracted by blue colors. To determine if there is an infestation, you can place a blue cloth on the windowsill next to your plants.


You can gently get rid of the pests by rinsing your plants with a hard jet of water. In this way the insects are washed away. Don't forget the undersides of the leaves, because the insects can hold onto smooth surfaces with their bladder feet. This method is suitable if the infestation has not yet passed the initial stage.

Soapy water

This home remedy is particularly gentle and not only helps against thrips. Mix one liter of water with two tablespoons of oil and add a splash of dish soap. Alternatively, you can dissolve 15 grams of soap or curd soap in the same amount of water. The solution is distributed with an atomizer so that the entire plant is misted. The treatment should be repeated over several days, spraying the plant with pure water every other day. This prevents pore clogging.

Nettle stock

Some herbs help pest control as their ingredients and essential oils not only promote health but also repel insects. For a nettle stock you need around 500 grams of fresh leaves, which are poured over with five liters of boiling water. With garlic or onions you can increase the effects. Let the mixture stand for 24 hours and spray the plant with the undiluted brew every few days.

Neem oil

The oil is obtained from the seeds of the tree of the same name. It contains the active substance azadirachtin. This has an insecticidal effect and prevents the larvae from shedding their skin to become an adult insect. Adult insects cannot be controlled with neem oil. Dab the clusters of larvae with a cotton swab soaked in oil. Use additional resources to help fight the plague.

Glue traps

This special trap was coated with glue so that flying insects stick to the surface after landing. Blue tablets are particularly effective at attracting thrips. However, this method is only suitable for checking a possible infestation and not for combating it. Wingless stages and species are not captured by the trap and can continue to reproduce.

Thunderstorm trap

Use beneficial insects

In closed spaces such as greenhouses or winter gardens, you can bring beneficial insects that naturally contain the thrips. The predators include flower bugs, lacewing larvae and predatory mites. The beneficial insects can be purchased on the Internet or in specialist gardeners. If you use beneficial organisms, you should avoid other control methods. Otherwise you endanger the survival of the beneficial insects. In addition, you should optimally design the living conditions for the beneficial insects. Adjust the temperature and humidity accordingly.

Predatory mites22 to 26 degrees Celsius70 to 80 percent
Flower bugs18 to 25 degrees Celsius60 to 95 percent
Lacewing20 to 26 degrees Celsiusundemanding


Lifespan of thunderstorm animals

The lifespan of thunderstorm animals depends very much on the climate. In warmer regions, a generation often survives a whole year, in colder regions several generations are born and die each year. Anyone who wants to wait until the thunderstorm animals die on their own can wait a long time, because they reproduce asexually - and very numerous. It takes about 20 days from egg to insect, the adult thrips can live for several weeks to months.

From eggs to adult thunderstorms

The biology of thunderstorm animals has been very well researched and still holds many secrets. Since the order contains several families and genera, the way of life is very different.

Reproduction and larval development

thunderstorm animals

Most fringed winged birds develop several generations per year, provided the weather conditions are optimal. Permanently warm greenhouses (€ 34.95 at Amazon *) encourage mass reproduction. In temperate climates, thunderstorm animals only develop one generation per year. The insects predominantly reproduce through asexual reproduction. There are some species that only produce females.

The larvae develop from the eggs within two to 20 days. Then, depending on the species, they display different ways of life. Some remain on the surface, while other fringed winged larvae retreat into the substrate. They resemble the adult fringed winged birds in their appearance and their way of life, but have no wings.

Further larval development:

  • two larval stages are followed by a prepupal stage
  • The prepupa stage occurs partially in the cocoon
  • then one or two more pupal stages


Just like green aphids, the black thunderstorm animals mainly feed on sap. They prick individual cells with their mouthparts and suck the fluid out of them. The plant tissue dies and turns light to shiny silver. While some species specialize in certain host plants, other fringed winged birds feed on sap from different species. There are also representatives who mostly feed on bollards.

Food spectrum of the fringed winged birds:

  • Predatory species feed on mites, scale insects, and eggs
  • some species use fungi on dead wood as food
  • some fringed wings develop plant galls in which they eat plant tissue


Fringed winged birds are spread hundreds or thousands of kilometers with the wind because of their low weight. They are therefore considered to be aerial plankton because they cannot actively change their flight direction. With the exception of the polar regions, fringed wings have spread worldwide. Even wingless species could be carried across the seas with the wind. The plant trade that has been going on since the Middle Ages also contributes to the spread of insects. Fringed winged birds have their main distribution center in the tropics.


In Central Europe some adult fringed winged birds survive the winter. The larvae hibernate less often. They flee from unstable habitats such as grain fields and look for sheltered retreats. They prefer to retreat to loose soil or litter, but also crawl in crevices and cracks under tree bark. Close winter quarters that guarantee physical contact on all sides are ideal. As a result, it happens more often that they bring thunderstorm animals into human proximity. They occasionally set off fire alarms when they enter the tight spaces.


A pest infestation is difficult to prevent because the insects can appear suddenly. However, you can ensure that the living conditions are not optimal for the fringed winged birds. Optimal plant care also plays a major role in prevention.


thunderstorm animals

Thrips like dry air. If your plants are infested, move them to the bathroom temporarily or spray the plants regularly. When the humidity is high, the reproduction of the fringed winged birds is extremely limited.

In winter, place bowls filled with water on the radiators so that there is a humid microclimate above the windowsill. A large planter filled with gravel collects excess irrigation water, which can then evaporate. Clay pots regulate the water balance in the substrate and direct excess water to the outside, where it evaporates on the surface.

Change substrate

After you have identified an infestation and successfully controlled the pests, you should repot the plant. Fringed winged larvae live on or in the substrate where they pupate. If you do not completely replace the substrate, the insects can reappear next year.


Prevent waterlogging, as this weakens your plants. If your immune system is already attacked, an infestation by pests is favored.

Overview and naming

Thunderstorm animals, which are officially called fringed wings in German, represent the order Thysanoptera. Long hair fringes on the edges of the wings are characteristic. There are around 5,500 species worldwide, including 400 in Central Europe. More than 200 species occur in Germany. The name thunderstorm animals comes from the way these insects live. They always seem to appear en masse when a summer thunderstorm is on the horizon.

Old dialect names for thunderstorm animals:

  • East Frisia : Gnidd or Putsigel
  • Sudetenland : little weather spirit
  • Rhineland : cilia or bumblebee frogs
  • Flensburg : Kaulpanne

Bladder feet

The insects have lobed structures on the terminal limbs of their legs called aroliums. You can increase the internal pressure so that the flaps inflate like a balloon. Due to these special structures, thunderstorm animals are able to hold on to smooth surfaces. To improve adhesion, the insects wet their feet with a secretion.


In Germany, 26 species are listed as pests that impair agriculture and plant breeding. Common pests are onion thrips (Thrips tabaci) and Parthenothrips dracaenae. Thrips is the scientific term for a genus within the fringed wing, which was adopted in German.

Grain pests in Central Europe:

  • Limothrips cerealium
  • Limothrips denticornis
  • Haplothrips aculeatu


Fringed wings reach a size between one and three millimeters. Your body is comparatively elongated. The strongly modified and asymmetrical mouthparts are characteristic of thunderstorm animals. While the right upper jaw has receded significantly, the left upper jaw is shaped into a piercing bristle. These mandibles are used to pierce plant tissue and soak up the juice. Adult insects have four narrow wings, with some species being wingless. The larvae are green in color and translucent.

Risk of confusion: white and black flies

Occasionally this term is also used for thunderstorm animals, which can lead to confusion. Black flies are mainly called fungus gnats, which belong to the order of the two-winged species. They represent a genus within the mosquitoes. The whiteflies hide whiteflies, which belong to the order of the Schnabelkerfen.

Comparative illustration of whitefly, sciarid fly and thunderstorm animals

Flight behavior

Thunderstorm animals are not considered aeronautical artists, because they can neither fly against the wind nor soar into the air on their own. The reason for this are the heavily fringed wings, which do not allow a change of direction. Rather, the insects are dependent on the summer thermals.

They rise with the warm air masses and are carried in higher air layers when the weather is nice and temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius. When the air pressure drops due to an approaching thunderstorm, thunderstorm animals attach their wings to their bodies and let themselves sink. They land on the head, in the hair and on the skin.

Interesting facts about the flight:

  • Airspeed of ten centimeters per second
  • lower wing beat frequency than mosquitoes
  • have no control over flight direction


Physical factors force thunderstorm animals to land

Researchers have found that the change in field strength is a significant reason for the sinking from higher air layers. When the weather is nice, the field strength is between 100 and 300 volts per meter. Thunderstorm animals can then drift into higher air layers. During a thunderstorm, the field strength increases to values ​​of up to 50,000 volts per meter. There is a threat of thunder and lightning. Thunderstorm animals react even at significantly lower field strengths. They lay their wings ready at 8,000 volts per meter to hit the ground.

Are thunderstorm animals dangerous?

The black insects are considered annoying companions on muggy, warm summer days. They settle on the skin and bite, which can make sensitive people itch. The insects do not feed on blood, however. Rather, the bite is an accidental and harmless side effect.

Symptoms after a sting:

  • Skin lesions
  • red swelling
  • partially inflamed areas

Fluid intake

thunderstorm animals

Some fringed wings are able to sting with their mouthparts. Researchers suspect that thunderstorm animals are misdirected by perspiration and want to absorb moisture. The mouthparts unintentionally scratch the skin. This explains why thunderstorm animals seem to prey on the naked limbs of athletes.

Search for protection

Since rain and cold pose great dangers for thunderstorm animals, the insects crawl into cracks and crevices when precipitation threatens. After landing on humans, they crawl under clothing in search of protection. The animals usually do not sting there.

Thunderstorm animals are annoying, but they cannot harm people. You don't belong to the bloodsuckers.

Keep thunderstorm animals away

Light colors like white or yellow seem to attract thunderstorm animals. If you don't want to be a target, you should prefer dark clothing. Once the insects have settled on your clothing, you can shake them off or remove them with a lint roller. Sunglasses help when jogging so that the fringed wings don't accidentally get in your eyes.

What can be done against thunderstorm animals in the apartment?

Fringe-winged birds can easily get into the apartment, even if there is a mosquito net on the window. Use the dustpan and broom to sweep the bugs off the floor after they have settled. Wipe the floor damp or dry with a microfiber cloth. Individual animals can be picked up with an adhesive strip.

Useful or harmful?

Some fringed-winged birds are regular visitors to certain plants. The tropical cycads from the genus Macrozamia are pollinated by thunderstorm animals. It is possible that the cycads are even dependent on the fringed-winged species of the genus Cycadothrips and cannot reproduce without their help.

Such a dependency is also known from Europe. Common heather can only survive in the Faroe Islands because it is pollinated by the heather thrips. It is the only species that can be considered a pollinator. All other insects fall out due to the strong winds and only the thunderstorm animals are carried to the flowers with the wind.

Pollinate thunderstorm animals:

  • different types of common heather and heather
  • Convertible rose
  • asian shorea trees
  • exotic Belliolum and Popowia species

Plant pests

Around 95 percent of all thrips species are considered pests. They are used as plant teats on many indoor plants such as rubber trees, bow hemp or various orchids. There is often a low level of humidity in the apartment, which benefits the insects. Since the animals are tiny and therefore almost invisible to the naked eye, pest identification is often not easy. The damage patterns can resemble those of other plant pests.

This is how an infestation by thrips is extreme:

  • silvery-gray speckles on the leaves
  • sometimes strong deformations occur
  • Leaves turn brown as the disease progresses
nutritionharmful stageDamage
Spider mitesSapinsectssilvery spots, fine cobwebs
Sciarid gnatsHair rootsLarvaeSeedlings lose stability and wither
Scale insectsSapLarvae and insectsPlant parts die off
AphidsSapinsectsdiscolored leaves, sticky coating

frequently asked Questions

What do thunderstorm animals eat?

The fringed winged birds have a wide range of food. There are purely herbivorous species that feed on the tissue and sap of various plants. Others visit flowers to eat the pollen. There are thunderstorm animals that feed on fungi in the dead wood and others that live predatory. The latter target arthropods and their eggs.

Where do thunderstorm animals come from?

The fringed winged larvae live in or on the ground. Here they pupate before being spread as full-grown insects with the wind. Thermal winds carry the insects into high layers of air. When conditions become suboptimal, they clasp their wings to sink to the ground. This is the case in humid weather, before a thunderstorm approaches.

How long do thunderstorm animals live?

The life expectancy of thunderstorm animals varies and depends on the temperature. Although some species are able to hibernate, most fringed-winged birds die after one season. The California flowering thrips can survive for about 75 days at temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius. If the thermometer drops to 15 degrees Celsius, the service life is only 46 days. Life expectancy is also reduced at higher temperatures. At 35 degrees Celsius, the insects die after about nine days.

Why do thunderstorm animals crawl around on the monitor screen?

Liquid crystal monitors in particular have a magical attraction for small insects. They are attracted to the light and crawl through the ventilation slots behind the diffuser film and panel glass. It is visible on the monitor and usually does not make it out. When the insects crawl in cracks and crevices, they are looking for protection from cold temperatures and moisture. Niches that offer all-round body contact are preferred.

Thunderstorm animals can appear here:

  • in cracks behind wallpaper
  • on TV
  • in the picture frame