Dendrothripines are all leaf feeding insects, often small and brightly coloured, and commonly associated with young leaves. They are not usually considered pests, although the mulberry thrips, Pseudodendrothrips mori, is sometimes a minor problem on trees grown for silkworms, and the privet thrips, Dendrothrips ornatus, can cause some distortion to the leaves of its host plant. Species in this subfamily are often highly active, and may jump readily when even slightly disturbed.
There are 15 genera and about 100 species listed in this subfamily, but four of the genera are based on fossils, and one generic name applies to a species from India that is not recognisable from its description. An identification key to seven genera was provided by Mound (1999). Most of the species are placed in two Old World genera, about 50 in Dendrothrips, and about 16 in Pseudodendrothrips. The New World representatives are included in two small genera, Leucothrips and Halmathrips each with either five or six species whose identity is currently not entirely clear. All species in this subfamily have a greatly enlarged, lyre-shaped, metafurca to which are attached enlarged muscles, the lateral walls of the metathorax are swollen, and the body surface often bears elaborate sculpture. Most species have the median pair of setae on the abdomen longer than the distance between their bases, but Edissa and Asprothrips have these setae short. Dendrothrips species have the forewing longitudinal veins displaced, such that the cilia associated with the costa arise ventrally at a considerable distance from the functional anterior margin of the wing. Other members of the Dendrothripinae have these cilia at varying distances from the anterior margin, and in Filicopsothrips wellsae the position of the cilia varies along the length of the wing.
These thrips are found mainly in the tropics and subtropics of the Old World, between Europe and Australia. Only a few species are known from South America, and only one species is considered likely to be native to North America. In contrast, there are many species in Africa and Asia, and there are endemic forms in the Australasian region including New Caledonia.