Aphids – Cannabis Plant Probems
When a grower finds small pale or dark bugs on the undersides of a fan leave they will most likely be Aphids.
Aphids greatly affect cannabis growers in a negative way. This guide details what they are, how to spot them, and ways to combat attacks.
Deterring them and saving plants from aphid infestation will be discussed too. Cannabis growers, as with any gardener, should keep watchful eyes for pests that hinder plant development. Aphids are a common garden bug having detrimental impacts on plants but can be avoided using proper preventative care.
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Aphids and their Impact on Cannabis Cultivation
The term aphid refers to a family of sap-sucking insects who are among the most destructive of cannabis plant pests. Their sizes vary from one to ten millimetres and can be black, red, white, or green in colour. The most common garden aphids are green and average one-millimetre in length. They have two whip-like antennas atop their head and a pair of cornicles with tube-like structures.
Winged female aphids hatch at the start of March to birth offspring that in weeks will have offspring of their own. This cycle repeats several times which allows aphid infestation to worsen over time. By the time winters-end nears, aphids develop sexual forms, as in male or female, and mate to create overwintering eggs.
Most aphids, except ones with sexual form, can reproduce without mating, and with over four-thousand species of them in existence, they make the lives of growers more difficult, especially for the ones cultivating outdoors.
Aphids look unique to each other depending on their stage of life. Adults are larger and rounder while young aphids, known as nymphs, appear smaller and thinner with a distinctive worm-like appearance.
In some cases, a grower may see small white bugs and mistake them for aphids when in fact they are thrips, which closely resemble the appearance of their competing counterpart. Growers too may notice small black flies on their plants which are actually winged aphids. They can be red, yellow, green, and dark or pale too and tend to have the same body shape as wingless aphids.
Most aphids attacking cannabis plants are green. As such, they are not always easy for growers to identify if one in another colour infiltrates a plant. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colours as shared above too so all growers should learn their various appearances.
The Common Cannabis Pest
Aphids enjoy cannabis plants for the taste and juice. They are a common garden pest and due to size may appear as small white eggs or specks. Aphids pierce leaves to feed on juices made by the plant and form in colonies under leaves and stems. This can cause leaves to die or turn yellow due to damage caused by excess stress on the plant.
Aphids also produce Honeydew and Black Sooty Mold which cause even more issues for growers. One issue with aphids is their production of a sugary-sweet substance known as honeydew. This liquid waste trickles from insects on to the plant and attracts a type of fungus known as sooty mold. This mold thrives on honeydew deposits, compounds on leaves and branches, and turns the plant black.
Not only does sooty mold discolour plants and hinder growth but makes buds less safe to smoke as well. Adding to that, sweet honeydew can attract other insects and pests that make cultivation harder so all growers should monitor plants for these intruders.
Damage can occur and months of hard work forfeited if preventative measures are dismissed. Aphids consuming nutrients from the plant is not the only concern for growers as they can carry viruses that are transmittable to plants.
Such viruses not only slow the growth of the infected plant but its production of flowers too. Some aphid species even inject toxins into cannabis plants that further endanger the health of the crop.
The most important step to avoiding issues with aphids is to notice them early on. Growers cannot foresee aphids arriving and reproducing on their crops but can perform checks at least a couple of times each week to ensure their absence.
Attention should be focused most on areas surrounding buds and leaves as these areas are where aphid colonies commonly form. If aphid clusters are found, this is a sign that the colony is well-established and thriving on the plant.
How to Get Rid of Aphids
At times for growers, aphids naturally die off without any aid. This does not happen often though so the pest problem should not be ingored. This normally only happens if wasps lay eggs inside aphids as this parasitizes them. When this occurs, aphids form a thin, mummy-like shell and no longer pose danger to plants.
Ladybugs are aphid predators too and if seen in a garden it means pests will also be around as the Ladybugs will be feeding on them. Finding these red-winged, black-spotted beetles should not cause panic as they eat aphids and help to restore order to the garden, which is nature’s way of handling infestations.
Some growers buy ladybugs to put in their garden for this reason alone, as with them, the garden can naturally manage the reduction of aphids and other unwanted pests without any additional work from the grower.
Here are three easy options to remove aphids from a cannabis crop
Buy aphid predators such as ladybirds, place them onto the cannabis plants and allow them time to start hunting!
While Mother Nature does her part growers should too with remedies that safely remove aphids from plants. One option is to combine two cups of water with chopped tomato leaves that are left to stew overnight. Leaves can then be removed by straining the liquid which should then be poured into a clean spray bottle. shake the mixture, and then spray onto leaves and plants.
Growers should concentrate spray to the underside of leaves as this is where aphids commonly colonize.
Another option is to mix two garlic cloves with two finely-chopped onions, blend them, add water, and the grower now has a second solution for efficiently ridding these pesky intruders.
This mixture not only kills many sorts of pests but has anti-fungal/bacterial properties too that help keep plants from contracting diseases. This solution can be made by combining three finely-chopped garlic cloves with two teaspoons of mineral oil.
Once it sits for twenty-four hours, it should be strained into a gallon jug with one teaspoon of liquid dish soap added. This bottle should then be stored for future use as growers need to only add two teaspoons of the mix for a full bottle of spray.
Cultivators, to avoid damaging plants, should ensure the mix is not too rich by spraying only one leaf to see if it discolours within two days. If it damages the leaf, which will be known if it turns yellow, the mix should be diluted and then reapplied to only one leaf again until a safe mix is made.
Commercial products advertised for the purpose of tackling aphids can work well too, but they can be far pricier than mixing up your own simple concoction. The product should be checked online for reviews before use.
There are still other ways to eliminate aphids too
Growers can use insecticidal soaps or fatty acids to disrupt the cell membranes of insects, which kills aphids. These have no negative impact on plants but to be effective should be applied to aphids directly. Some growers use nervous system insecticides as well, such as Orthene (acephate) or Dursban (chlorpyrifos).
Insecticide bottles are labelled to be for ornamental vegetation but work well for cannabis plants too.
Use Organic Insecticides
As with any garden pest, treating aphids is done safest using non-chemical pesticides as these can harm cannabis plants. Instead, growers should use one of the following options:
- Essentria IC3: This solution combines horticultural oils and is an organic insecticide all growers should have on hand. It can be applied directly to plants and helps growers to control spider mites, whiteflies, and aphids. Growers should apply it once per day until aphids are gone as this mixture stays active for only eight to twelve hours.
- Spinosad: Each product from this brand is organic and effective in treating aphid attacks. Much like Essentria, Spinosad should be sprayed directly onto plants which will kill aphids on contact. Once pests are gone, growers, if they choose, can add Spinosad to the water supply of plants to protect them from future attacks.
- Insecticidal soaps: These are best for spot-treating infected crops. They kill most garden pests, including aphids, but should never be applied directly to buds. Similar to Essentia and Spinosad, it is best if growers apply it at least twice to ensure complete removal of aphids and other pests.
Treating Cannabis Plants with Oils
Some cannabis gardeners swear by using horticultural oils to remove garden pests. Neem oil, a naturally-occurring pesticide, is popular among growers combating pests though rosemary, eucalyptus, cinnamon, and lemon-based oils work well too.
Growers can mix any of these oils with water to apply evenly across plants using a mister. These oils contain properties that affect aphids and other pests on contact though growers should avoid using aromatic oils as they influence the smell and sometimes the taste of harvested buds.
Growers may want to treat plants before aphids ever appear as a precautionary measure and should be misted regularly if outdoors. Vegetable-based solutions, such as cottonseed, soybean, and canola oil work well too for getting rid of cannabis aphids as these are less likely to alter the aroma of buds.