Pest Guide: Keeping Aphids Out of Your Cannabis Crop
If you’re growing marijuana, dozens of hurdles are bound to come into play during the journey from germinating to harvesting. Drought, relentless rain, less-than-optimal soil, an overabundance of nutrients, and unexpected late or early frosts are only a few of the obstacles you might face. Algae and fungus growth and other pathogens could make their way into your crop as well.
On top of all those issues, pests are ongoing concerns. Whether you’re growing marijuana indoors or outside, insects are sure to find their way to your tender, juicy plants. Though any number of pests might be problematic, aphids are among the most common. These tiny insects can have a hugely negative impact on your cannabis garden, so let’s find out what to do about them!
What Are Aphids?
Aphids are barely visible insects with soft bodies. Some have wings whereas others don’t. They come in a rainbow of colors, including black, brown, yellow, green, and pink. Regardless of color, they like to hide discreetly on the undersides of leaves, so you might not even know they’re there unless you make a special effort to look for them.
These insects are equipped with pincer-like mouthpieces designed to pierce through sensitive plants. Once they bite into your plants, they suck out their sap. If they’re not kept in check, they’ll essentially bleed your plants dry before moving on to the next unsuspecting crop.
Why Are Aphids Dangerous for Marijuana Plants?
One of the main reasons aphids are dangerous for marijuana plants is their sap-sucking nature. If you’re giving your cannabis the light, heat, nutrients, and moisture it needs to thrive, it’s naturally going to be dripping with sap. This makes it a prime meal for aphids. It doesn’t matter if you’ve planted gorilla glue strain seeds, or agent orange seeds, these bugs are going to love the flavor.
Danger in Numbers
Another reason these insects are so relentless, is that you won’t find just one or two aphids in your garden like you would snakes or black widows. Instead, these nuisances travel in colonies, and they quickly reproduce at alarming rates. They produce live offspring rather than laying eggs, so populations can escalate quickly.
Adult aphids deposit their young on your plants, almost all of which are females. Each one can produce 50 to 100 young over the course of a month. Those babies mature in about a week and begin to produce offspring of their own. It’s an ongoing cycle, and each new aphid eats its way through your plant, drawing out all the vital sap and nutrients.
Aphids are also notorious for carrying viruses from one plant to the next. In some cases, it takes an aphid several hours of feeding on an infected plant to acquire a virus. Once it moves on to the next plant, though, it takes only a few minutes for it to pass along the virus.
While aphids can acquire several types of viruses from other plants, most of them have similar effects. The result of this tramsmission is most noticed by stunted plant growth and reduced yields. Those viruses can have a negative impact on bud quality and potency as well. Even the best quality cannabis seed is at risk of decimation by these insects if they are around.
While aphids feed off your cannabis crop, they produce waste known as honeydew because it’s sweet and sticky. This substance may cause sooty mold to grow on your plants, which can further stunt their growth. It also attracts other pests, like ants.
Because of their size, aphids may seem harmless. In truth, though, they can destroy your marijuana plants in several ways. From sucking the sap and nutrients out of them to causing mold growth and attracting even more pests, these miniature miscreants are pure nuisances. Once they drain your plants dry, they’ll simply grow wings and fly away to another crop.
Finding an Aphid Issue
Catching an aphid invasion early and controlling it before it has a chance to hamper your harvest is crucial. This means examining your plants at least once a week for signs of an infestation. If holes begin appearing in the leaves, it may be too late to save the plants. Check the backsides of l
eaves often. You’ll be able to see those tiny bugs forming clusters. They may also attack new buds as they’re trying to grow.
In the event you don’t see colonies of aphids nesting on your plants directly, consider that other telltale signs could indicate an invasion that was more discreet. These might include yellowing leaves, wilting plants, black or gray residue on the undersides of leaves, and white or gray grainy particles on the backs of leaves. You’re also likely to find aphids’ sticky honeydew on the backs of leaves.
Getting Rid of Aphids
Finding colonies of aphids on your marijuana plants isn’t necessarily a reason to panic, though. You may still be able to salvage your crop if you act quickly. Plenty of invasion remedies are available, many of which are safe, natural, and free of chemical pesticides.
Seeing a crowd of ladybugs in your marijuana garden may be just as disconcerting as discovering a colony of aphids. If you find these bright red insects making a home among your crop, there’s no need to worry, though. They’re natural aphid predators, so this would be a good sign.
Ladybugs feed on insects that would otherwise eat your garden. Still, they don’t actually hurt your plants. Legend has it, ladybugs bring good luck as well, so their presence may be a sign of a bountiful, potent harvest to come. You can actually purchase ladybugs online. They’re relatively inexpensive, and you can simply release them into your garden to gobble up any problematic aphids.
Sunflowers tend to draw aphids, but they’re also known as trap plants. This means that when they draw in the aphids, they hold onto them and keep them from preying on other plants in your garden. Aside from that, sunflowers make bright, cheerful additions to your garden. They’re tough enough to handle aphid attacks as well.
At the same time, sunflowers generally grow tall, so they make a nice hedge against prying eyes. This is particularly helpful if you want to make sure your personal stash remains a private matter. Just be sure to leave a few feet of space between the sunflowers and your marijuana plants, so aphids won’t be tempted to migrate.
Many plants can help repel aphids as opposed to directing their attention away from your cannabis the way sunflowers do. Marigolds fall into this category because of their scent. Garlic, cilantro, chives, dill, fennel, and leeks can go a long way toward keeping aphids at bay as well. They may not hide your marijuana crop as well as sunflowers, but they’ll certainly help protect it from aphid attacks.
Several homemade sprays can also help rid your cannabis plants of annoying aphids using natural means. You could chop an onion and two cloves of garlic, and mix them with two cups of water. Allow them to sit for at least a few hours, and strain away the pulp. Then, put the pungent mixture in a spray bottle and apply it to your plants.
Another option is to mix a teaspoon of mild dish soap with a quart of water and spray it on your plants. You could also add a dash of cayenne pepper to this mixture before spraying it on your plants. Cayenne tends to discourage a wide range of pests from invading a garden.
Some experts say dusting your marijuana plants with standard flour from your pantry can rid your garden of aphids. They inadvertently eat the flour while trying to snack on your cannabis, and it causes problems for them.
You might also consider trying a tomato leaf spray. To make this concoction, mix a couple of cups of chopped leaves from tomato plants with two cups of water, and allow them to mingle overnight. From there, drain the liquid off the leaves, place it in a spray bottle, and spray it on your plants.
Insecticides are readily available online and on store shelves if you’re not dedicated to taking the natural route. Many of them kill helpful insects as well as harmful ones, though. Most of them leave chemical residues on your marijuana plants, too. Those might not be particularly pleasant or safe when the time comes to enjoy your harvest.
Aphids may appear harmless on the surface due to their small size and quiet demeanor. Under that diminutive stature, though, lurks a true cannabis killer. Those tiny insects will drain your plants of their sap and vital nutrients while damaging them beyond repair and possibly passing along dangerous viruses as well. Once those viruses take hold of your plants, there’s really no way to get rid of them other than starting your crop over again from scratch.
Of course, simply seeing a few aphids on your cannabis isn’t reason enough to uproot your garden and give up all hope of a generous bud harvest. You have plenty of alternatives for getting rid of those small pests that are so bent on spoiling your crop.
Protecting your marijuana plants may be as simple as planting deterrents or trap plants around the perimeter of your garden. You can also mix up a few safe but effective home remedies to spray on the plants or purchase insecticides from any number of sources. Either way, you don’t have to sit back and watch in pain as aphids eat your crop. 149 seed bank has your back with our free grow guide and FAQ page.