Spider mites got quite the bad rep in the cannabis industry, and for good reason: They’re basically bedbugs that chew up our plants. Besides damaging our crops, we can easily carry their eggs home with us on our clothes or in our hair, causing an infestation in our own homes.
However, there’s another insect to guard against: the tiny aphid. Aphids like to hang out underneath cannabis leaves. Many infestations go unnoticed simply because we don’t spot them right away. When we start to see wilting or discolored leaves, we know aphids have been there for a while.
They appear as tiny white—almost clear—insects that move slowly across the plant. In their wake they leave behind excrement (poetically dubbed “honeydew”). Ants love honeydew, and if you don’t get your aphid problem under control, you may find yourself dealing with ant hives, too. Couple that with the ability of aphids to infect plants with harmful viruses, and we start to see that aphids definitely pose a threat to our crops.
Luckily, they’re easier to control than spider mites. For one, aphids reproduce much slower. They give birth to roughly a dozen live young per day, whereas spider mites can drop hundreds of eggs in just a few hours.
Aphids tend to get out of control in temperatures between 60°F (15°C) and 80°F (26°C). You’ll rarely have a spider mite and aphid infestation at the same time, because spider mites like it above 80°F. Unfortunately, using temperature to control for aphids is a bad idea, because you’ll risk stressing your plants in the process.
The aphids’ natural predator is the humble ladybug. Ladybugs don’t like eating cannabis; they’d much prefer to eat aphid invaders instead. You can also easily pluck a dozen or so ladybugs off your plants. But aphids, which are smaller than pinheads and can attack by the thousands, aren’t so easy to remove by hand.
Believe it or not, there’s a rather sizable market for ladybugs. You can buy 1,500 ladybugs from Amazon.com for about $12.
The major downside to ladybugs—besides having a bunch of other insects crawling over your grow—is that they’re slow, and they’re going to eat only as much as they can. If time is a factor, you’ll want to consider some other options.
The old trusty “nuke” method is the most surefire way of getting rid of aphids. There’s a number of organic and non-organic sprays you can buy to control for these pests. Just make sure those pesticides adhere to your local laws and regulations. If you do decide to go the commercial pesticide route, try to buy a product that specifically targets aphids. Melathion and acephate are designed to disrupt the nervous systems of aphids while keeping your plants safe.
Try to avoid heavy duty pesticides that will kill every insect or arachnid in the grow area, including spiders and ladybugs.
Some growers recommend using garlic oil mixtures (with onion or tomato leaf) to keep aphids off. Although this is a reliable method, garlic oil has a potent smell. And yes, this smell will get on your buds. But if you don’t mind having a zesty scent on your weed, then go ahead and spray garlic oil. This same issue applies to neem oil, which can also control aphids.
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