Organic Pest Control: Cannabis Aphids
Cannabis aphids are nearly invisible to the naked eye but these tiny marijuana bugs are among those cannabis growers should watch out for. These cannabis pests can wipe out cannabis operations in a matter of weeks.
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Cannabis Aphids Pest Control - Portland oregon
Small and pear-shaped, cannabis aphids are typically only about 1 to 3 mm long, but these tiny marijuana bugs are avid feeders and prolific breeders and they can devastate your cannabis operation in just a few weeks. There are well over a thousand different varieties of aphids, ranging in color from green and yellow to black, red and brown. However, the most common type of aphid marijuana pest you will see is the green variety, which can be difficult to spot because they blend into the plant foliage so well.
What Exactly Are Cannabis Aphids?
Cannabis aphids are those aphids that specifically attack cannabis plants and unfortunately, there are several aphid varieties that do just that. Understanding how to identify these common cannabis pests is a key component of effective organic cannabis aphid control.
Aphids are classed as insects, having six legs, one pair of antennae and the typical three-segmented body of an insect, consisting of the head, thorax and abdomen. Some aphids do have wings, while others are covered in waxy or wool-like secretions as a result of the webbing they produce. Aphids also have a unique feature that sets them apart from other insects – a pair of upright, backward pointing tubes on the lower part of their back. Called cornicles, these tubes are believed to be responsible for the production of honeydew, which is a concentrated sugar-based solution that aphids secrete on leaves.
Like many insects, cannabis aphids attack the stems and leaves of marijuana plants, puncturing them with a specialized straw-like mouth called a proboscis. They then suck the juices straight out of the plant, extracting the protein they need, but leaving behind excrement in the form of a sugar solution, commonly referred to as honeydew. Apart from damaging the plant and disrupting its photosynthesis and growth processes, cannabis aphids also encourage the growth of fungi on the plants they infest thanks to the honeydew they produce.
The Life Cycle of Cannabis Aphids
When it comes to cannabis pests, the life cycle of most aphid species is relatively complex, mainly because they are capable of parthenogenetic reproduction. Parthenogenetic reproduction is the process whereby aphids reproduce asexually – embryos do not need to be fertilized. There are some species of aphids that do overwinter as eggs, but for most of their active season, (spring and summer), they are asexual and deliver their nymphs parthenogenetically. These nymphs are born live, (not delivered as eggs that will hatch later), and they are also born pregnant and ready to deliver the next generation of cannabis aphids! This means that even a single aphid can lead to thousands more.
A single cannabis aphid species can also give rise to variable populations, depending on the season. For instance, during the late spring and summer when infestations become dense, new generations can be born with wings and they can then colonize new plants by traveling on air currents. Each live birth generation of nymphs, (those born live parthenogenetically), lives for only seven to fourteen days, but each one of those nymphs is born pregnant and gives rise to a whole new generation before they die. If left unchecked, cannabis aphid populations can rapidly grow into the thousands.
Cannabis aphids can also reproduce sexually. These sexually reproducing populations generally appear in the fall, giving birth to eggs that are left to overwinter. Come spring, those eggs will hatch and you’ll end up with a whole new generation of cannabis aphids that are capable of asexual reproduction and the whole vicious cycle starts up all over again.
Signs of a Cannabis Aphid Infestation
Cannabis aphids are relatively easy to spot compared with other cannabis pests like cannabis spider mites. Aphids tend to colonize the stems of plants and the undersides of leaves, and are easy to see with the naked eye. Some species of aphids are more noticeable than others because of their color – black or brown aphids are pretty easy to spot on green stems and leaves. However, since the most common types of cannabis aphids are green in color, like the green peach aphid, they can be harder to see, so you need to be diligent in checking your plants thoroughly for any signs of an aphid infestation.
If you have a serious infestation of cannabis aphids in your grow operation, you will notice a general decline in plant vigor, signified by leaf curl, plant wilt and shoot growth stunting, as well as delayed plant maturity and bud production. You might also see leaf necrosis and the development of sooty fungus on your plant leaves, a result of the honeydew secreted by cannabis aphids, which acts as a growing medium for the fungi.
Aphids are also prolific disease vectors – they transfer viruses, bacteria and fungi from plant to plant and can soon leave you with an epidemic of plant disease on your hands, destroying your entire crop in one fell swoop. That’s why it is so important to deal with aphids as soon as you see them – even one cannabis aphid can soon lead to thousands and even if you eliminate them, the diseases they leave behind will continue to impact your crop.
Organic Cannabis Aphid Prevention Methods
There are a number of processes you can put in place to prevent cannabis aphids from entering your grow operation. These include:
- Air Filtration
Cannabis aphids are airborne for a significant part of their life cycle and can enter your grow room through open windows or your ventilation system. If you have an indoor grow operation, you should install a 340 micron mesh or filter in order to keep the aphids out of your grow space. If you have an outdoor grow space, you can use a thrips screen – they work great on aphids too!
- Plant Monitoring
Check your plants at least twice a week for cannabis aphids, especially when plants are growing rapidly. Carefully examine the underside of leaves, the stems, the root zones, and the area around the tops of pots for aphids in your growing medium. Shaking a container is a good test for aphids – if there are any aphids on plants, shaking the pot should dislodge a few, making them easier to spot. Keep in mind that most species of aphids cause the greatest damage when temperatures are warm, but not too hot, somewhere in the 65 to 80 degree Fahrenheit zone. Dead aphids also leave remains behind in the form of white exoskeletons – if you find evidence of these, you know you have a cannabis aphid infestation on your hands.
If you have an outdoor garden, make sure to pay special attention to the upwind edge of your garden, because cannabis aphids prefer these zones. Also check for evidence of cannabis aphid predators in your outdoor garden. Their presence indicates the presence of the aphids they like to feed on. These predators include lady beetles and lace wings. You might also come across the mummified remains of parasitized aphids as well as the syrphid fly larvae that prey on them. There might even be disease-killed aphids on your plants – these aphids appear bloated, moldy, and are off-color. The other thing to look for are ants. There are some species of ants that farm cannabis aphids, carrying them to fresh grazing areas while protecting them from predators. The ants enter into this symbiotic relationship so they can collect the honeydew left behind by the aphids.
It’s crucial to implement and follow regular procedures for aphid inspection. Once they get a foothold in your garden, they can be extremely difficult to dislodge.
Organic Cannabis Aphid Control
Early identification of an infestation and diligent pest control measures are the keys to dealing with a cannabis aphid problem in your garden.
Outdoor Grow Operation
If you have a cannabis aphid infestation outdoors, you can try treating it by simply spraying off your plants with water. If you spray your plants over a period of several days, you can diminish the aphid population considerably, which really helps in reducing plant stress. Natural predators like lace wings should take care of the rest of the population.
However, if you see ants on your plants, you have a problem because these ants are actually protecting and herding the cannabis aphids. In situations such as these, or if spraying your plants with water isn’t working, you should consider using one of the indoor grow operation aphid control methods listed below.
Indoor Grow Operation
Cannabis aphid populations in indoor grow areas have a relatively easy life. They don’t have to contend with rough weather or natural predators, so they can reach exponential population growth rates very quickly. Since the balance of nature isn’t operative indoors, you need to intervene before your cannabis aphid outbreak reaches epic and uncontrollable proportions.
Parasitoids are a good choice when your cannabis aphid infestation has not reached massive population sizes yet. The parasitoids inject an egg into the aphid. The egg hatches and the parasitoid larvae feast inside. Most aphids die within one to two hours of this egg-laying. The body of the aphid undergoes a dramatic change as it becomes a “mummy”, changing color and bloating. Each larva emerges as an adult from the aphid mummy corpse. The old mummy remains on the leaf.
Cannabis aphids have natural enemies that growers can use to control an infestation in their grow spaces. Among these are different species of parasitoid wasps like Aphidius matricariae, Aphidius colemani, and Aphidius ervi, all of which lay their eggs inside the aphids. During warmer months, generation time of these parasitoid wasps is significantly shorter. As soon as mummy corpses start showing up on your cannabis plants, you can rest assured there will be a substantial reduction in aphid population in a couple of weeks (or even earlier). These tiny wasps pose no threat to people and pets since they are quite small and don’t have any stingers.
Aphid predators are a more effective option when you have a very heavy cannabis aphid infestation. These predators spend a fair portion of their life eating aphids and close-up, their actions can be as vicious and dramatic as an alligator’s. The most well-known are the common lady beetle (Hippodamia convergens), the green lacewing (Chrysopa rufilabris), and predatory flies (Aphidoletes aphidimyza, Aphidius colemani, Aphelinus abdominalis, Aphidius ervi). Naturally occurring predators work best, especially in small backyards. Commercially available lady beetles may give some temporary control when properly handled, although most of them disperse away from the yard within a few days. Predators are most effective in protecting large areas rather than small plots, which they are likely to leave in search of denser prey infestations.
When humidity level is high, aphids become very susceptible to fungal diseases. Whole colonies of aphids can be killed by these pathogens when conditions are right. You can spot the dead aphids because they usually turn reddish or brown. And unlike those robust and shiny tan-colored mummies that show up when aphids are parasitized, dead aphids look fuzzy and wrinkled. Beauveria bassiana is a commonly used beneficial fungi in the treatment of cannabis aphid infestations.
The Ant & Garden Pest Control Difference
At Ant & Garden Pest Control in Beaverton Oregon, I focus on providing the very best in organic pest control, designed to protect your plants and your workers while eradicating any pest problems you might have. When it comes to cannabis aphids, I use a proven system of organic controls, all of which are OLCC approved.
- Before I begin any pest control measures on your grow operation, I take the time to examine your plants and grow space thoroughly to identify the nature, scale, and size of your infestation. This allows me to come up with a customized treatment plan that meets your unique cannabis pest control needs.
- I start with a knockdown spray made with essential oils to lower the numbers of your cannabis aphid population. Depending on the developmental stage of your plants, I might use a pyrethrum knockdown spray instead. Pyrethrum is more effective, but there is a longer wait period to move on to the second stage of predator release. Keeping your plants and staff safe is very important to me, so if there are going to be workers present at your grow site, I will use a simple organic pesticide and dish soap instead.
- About a week after applying the knockdown spray, I release predator bugs specific to your grow operation’s unique needs. I like to use parasitic wasps and lace wings, both of which are extremely effective against cannabis aphids.
Dealing with a cannabis aphid infestation can be time consuming and frustrating, particularly because they multiply so quickly and give birth to live nymphs. You need an aggressive treatment strategy to deal with them and here at Ant & Garden Pest Control, that’s exactly what I specialize in. So give me a call and let me help you get rid of your cannabis aphid infestation once and for all!
Ryan Smith of ANT & GARDEN PEST CONTROL in Beaverton is the most trusted and reliable pest control guy in Oregon, and for good reason! I care about helping my clients as though they’re members of my own family. Whether you’re in need of urgent treatment for an existing ant pest problem or are looking for the best prevention methods for your home or business, I am committed to bringing you only the best ant and pest control Beaverton for your complete peace of mind.
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