Pest Guide: Crickets and Grasshoppers
No one wants to spend time, money, and energy growing high-quality cannabis plants just to see them get decimated by crickets and grasshoppers. Unfortunately, as much as people love cannabis, these pests love them as well. Crickets and grasshoppers are extremely damaging to cannabis plants, and they can travel long distances to feast on a cannabis crop.
Crickets and Grasshoppers: Are They the Same?
While crickets and grasshoppers are technically different, they behave the same when it comes to infesting a cannabis crop. These dangerous insects mostly come out at night, when they make their signature “singing“ noise. They lay eggs in the soil during late summer, and the eggs can survive winter if they are not taken care of beforehand.
Crickets and grasshoppers both love cannabis seedlings the most, which means they can destroy a grower’s crop before they get very far into the season. Females can lay 400 eggs each, which hatch in early spring and take around six weeks to mature fully. This makes cannabis seedlings a perfect food source for these young pests. It is best to catch an infestation early to avoid serious damage.
Cricket and Grasshopper Damage
Crickets and grasshoppers are omnivores and are picky about their food source. If they detect a cannabis crop nearby, they will head that way fast. They can travel long distances in a short amount of time, making them a difficult pest to avoid completely.
Crickets and grasshoppers feed on the leaves of cannabis plants, favoring seedlings heavily. Not only does this cause significant leaf damage, but these pests can introduce diseases that can kill the plant even after the crickets are gone. Cricket and grasshopper infestations can turn a once healthy crop into a field of dead plants incredibly fast.
Signs of Crickets and Grasshoppers
Since these pests are difficult to control, it can sometimes be a challenge to identify an infestation before it is too late. Growers should be vigilant when watching for the following signs:
The most telltale sign of both crickets and grasshoppers in the noise they make when the sun sets. Crickets rub their wings together and grasshoppers rub their long legs against their wings to make a “singing” noise called stridulation. Growers should take immediate action the first time they hear this noise in their garden.
Mole crickets live in the dirt below plants, digging tunnels and holes to travel and live, much like moles. Their lifestyle leads to visible mounds of dirt on the ground, which can attract animals that prey on these insects. When animals come searching for mole crickets, they will dig into the ground around the plant until they find one, which will damage the plant’s sensitive root system.
Increased Animal Presence
Because mole crickets are a food source for many animals, growers may notice increased animal presence if they have an infestation. The animals to watch for include raccoons, armadillos, foxes, birds, skunks, and rats.
Brown Patches on Leaves
If the crickets and grasshoppers have fed on a plant, growers will notice brown patches on the spots where the pests have been feeding. It is critical that the infestation is taken care of as soon as possible to avoid plant loss.
Protecting Cannabis Plants from Crickets and Grasshoppers
Crickets and grasshoppers are no stranger to gardeners. While their presence is problematic, gardeners have discovered several effective methods of both natural and chemical extermination. These include:
One of the best ways to handle a cricket infestation is to prevent one from forming at all. Crickets and grasshoppers prefer to travel in grassy areas, so growers should remove as much of the grass around their plants as possible. Growers can plant a grassy patch away from their crop, which may draw crickets and grasshoppers away from their cannabis crop.
Growers should till the garden’s soil in the fall and again in the spring, which can reveal eggs and introduce fungus that can kill some grasshopper eggs. Biologically active soil rich with fungus and beneficial bacteria has a better chance at naturally destroying cricket and grasshopper eggs.
Companion crops have been used in gardening for centuries to boost plant growth and limit pest infestation. Cannabis growers can combat cricket and grasshopper invasion by planting cilantro, sweet clover, and peas near their cannabis plants, as these insects dislike their taste. Growers should plant a thick barrier of the companion crops several inches away from their cannabis plants.
Animal Defense Method
Introducing animals that feed on crickets and grasshoppers is an excellent way to both prevent an infestation and snuff out one that has already started. The two best animal defense methods include:
Crickets and grasshoppers make a tasty treat for many birds throughout North America, and they are unlikely to cause any damage to cannabis plants. Growers can put up bird perches and feeders around their garden. Once birds realize that this area is a good source of food, they will hunt for bugs. Not only will they pick off any crickets and grasshoppers they find, but they will hunt other garden pests, too.
Chickens, ducks, and turkeys are all animals that growers can keep around their garden to fight off crickets and grasshoppers. However, they shouldn’t be allowed to roam free inside the garden itself. Instead, growers should create a caged “run” that surrounds the garden and serves as a barrier where these birds can feast safely on any insects that attempt to cross it.
One of the best ways to protect cannabis plants against all insects is by using row covers. Growers can use stakes and a row cover cloth to form a protective barrier around the entire plant. It is important that they check the cover often for damage, as grasshoppers and other persistent pests have chewed their way through the cloth, though this is a rare occurrence.
Once grasshoppers and crickets have invaded a garden, growers may need to take more aggressive action to get rid of them. In these cases, they may want to use natural solutions as repellents and insecticides. Growers should consider trying the natural repellents listed below.
A common natural repellent used in many varieties of gardening, including cannabis, is a mild soap solution. Growers can mix one gallon of water with a tablespoon of dish soap, such as Palmolive or Dawn. Apply this solution to the soil in a one to two-foot radius around the soil of the cannabis plant. Growers will need to apply this solution in the morning and at night when the sun is at its least intense.
Garlic spray is an excellent cricket and grasshopper repellent, as these picky insects dislike the taste. Growers can purchase a commercially available formula or make their own by adding crushed garlic cloves to water or mineral oil. This spray should be applied to the leaves of the cannabis plant on which the grasshopper will feed. As with most sprays, be sure to apply this in the morning or at night, when the sun is at its least intense, to avoid leaf burn.
Dust Leaves with Flour
Dusting cannabis leaves with flour is an excellent way to prevent crickets and grasshoppers from feeding on the leaves of the cannabis plant. Flour gums up the mouths of these pests, preventing them from feasting on the leaves. Growers must be sure they are using all purpose flour, as self-rising flour contains salts that will damage the plant.
Grasshopper bait is an excellent way to get rid of immature crickets and grasshoppers, though it is less effective in older insects. Grasshopper bait is typically made from wheat bran that is infused with a targeted pathogen that kills crickets and grasshoppers. It is harmless to humans, animals, and other beneficial insects, but it will need to be applied several times to be effective.
If more natural methods have not been effective, there are several commercially available inorganic pesticides that cannabis growers have used regularly to combat cricket and grasshopper infestations. These pesticides are typically only effective for 24-hours, so growers will need to go through several applications to stymie the infestation.
It is critical that growers check their chosen pesticide for its effects on other wildlife, including bees, birds, and nearby aquatic life. Be sure to follow the application directions listed on the container.
The Bottom Line
Many growers grow their cannabis plants outdoors, as it is the most natural way to grow cannabis, and it does not require them to set up a complicated indoor grow room. However, growing outdoors may leave plants susceptible to damage from insects like crickets and grasshoppers.
However, these pests do not have to be a death sentence for the grower’s cannabis crop. The methods listed above have been used extensively by experienced growers to protect their plants against cricket and grasshopper infestations. Whether you prefer an all-natural approach or an inorganic pesticide, there is an option to help you keep your cannabis plants safe until harvest.
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