Nearly half of all thrips species live on dead branches or in leaf litter. The remaining species are evenly divided between living on green leaves or on flowers. Leaf feeders often produce galls (gawls), abnormal swellings on plants. These unusual plant growths provide thrips with both food and shelter. Many species live inside leaves curled or deformed by their feeding activities, or inside bundles of leaves they attach together by glue or silk. Many flower-feeding species prefer grasses. A few species are found on mosses. Pest species eat a wide range of plants in a variety of habitats, but most thrips prefer just a few plants in specific habitats. Most species are found in tropical forests, but the largest populations are found in open habitats, such as mountain meadows.

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