Observation of the feather-like wings of an unidentified thrips (Order: Thysanoptera) species under the foldscope

I recently went to a park in Manila and noticed my shirt catching several of these tiny bugs being blown by the wind. I brought home one to examine it closely. It measures only about 2.5 mm in length, and confirmed that it is an insect as it has three pairs of jointed legs.

Based on my research, I found out that this insect is called a “thrips”. I still don’t know if there is a local Filipino term for this insect, as it is my first time to see one. I was also surprised to find out that some species have 2 pairs of wings, as their wings are almost impossible for me to see with the naked eye. But their wings are so narrow and small that they are incapable of conventional insect flight (i.e., creation of leading edge vortex). Instead, they employ a different mechanism called “clap and fling” wherein their wings clap together and then fling apart, sucking air in and creating a vortex over each wing. But they could also travel through “inactive flight” by simply letting themselves get picked up by the wind. When at rest, their wings are folded back very closely over their flat bodies, hence the difficulty of seeing their wings. Using a low-magnification lens though, I was able to confirm that the species I brought home had wings, and so I began dissecting them very carefully and taped them on a microscope slide. Each wing is just about 1 mm in length.

What’s interesting about thrips wings is that they are feather-like, having fringes of cilia running along each wing’s margin. In fact, the name of their order “Thysanoptera” was derived from the Greek words thysanos, “tassel or fringe”, and pteron, “wing”, for their fringed wings that look unlike any other insect wings, and are thus worthy of observation. Using my foldscope, I was able to examine each wing more closely.

I would be very happy if anyone could help me identify the species of this thrips, as I have not seen any picture online of a thrips species sporting similar wing appearance.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mitali says:

    Stunning images!! The clarity is so amazing! 😍

  2. Manu Prakash says:

    Dear Cedrick,

    What a beautiful set of images. Both the care you took in making the sample, describing your experience and method and just the lovely data sets are a phenomenal combination.

    It is indeed a beautiful thrip. I will dig into to see if I can find a identification key for thrips. I feel the pattern of hair on the wing structure is so specific – we got to be able to identify it that way. Mosquitoes indeed can be identified that way!

    Cheers
    Manu

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