'Black Pearl' Pepper Banker Plants
Orius insidious (minute pirate bug) is a beneficial generalist predator that feeds upon adult and larval thrips. It will also feed on other small insects such as aphids, and spider mites. Orius are expensive to purchase, so some growers are using "Black Pearl" pepper banker plants to provide a pollen food source to help them get established in the greenhouse. Orius is not effective under short days.
Growers rear the minute pirate bugs on pollen producing pepper plants and place plants throughout the greenhouse to distribute them. Minute pirate bugs are released at a rate of 60-80 per pepper plant. The minute pirate bugs will lay eggs on the pepper plants in the same area where thrips lay eggs, usually in or near flowers. One pepper plant covers around 1,000 sq. ft. of growing area. As long as the pepper plants are in flower and producing pollen, the minute pirate bugs will reproduce on them. The adults will fan out across the greenhouse and kill 1st and 2nd instar thrips larvae and adult thrips. Only one release of minute pirate bugs onto the banker plants is necessary. Peppers need to be removed about once a month from the pepper plants to keep them flowering, in order for the process to work. Some growers have mentioned that keeping peppers picked off the plants is tedious and time consuming.
For information on growing ‘Black Pearl’ ornamental pepper from seed see Grower Facts from PanAmerican Seed.
Powerpoint presentation: This is results of a research project The 'Black Pearl' Pepper Banker Plant for Biological Control of Thrips in Commercial Greenhouses, by North Carolina State University
Photos and more information about Orius (Cornell University)