Setting up a grow can be fun and time consuming. When you finally get your tent, light, nutrient, and water game strong, the last thing you want to see are spider mites or thrips chowing down on your beloved crop. Let's talk about how to set your crop up for success against pests by using beneficial insects for prevention of pesky bad bugs.
Clean Your Grow Space
Between every grow clean and sanitize your rooms from top to bottom. A dilute bleach solution or any disinfectant that you feel comfortable using will work. This helps to ensure all possible eggs and insects are gone before introducing your new plants to the space. If using bamboo stakes, sterilizing them between crops or replenishing with new ones is recommended. Spider mites and other critters will hide out inside the stakes, remaining dormant until new plant materials are introduced nearby. They will then emerge and set up camp in your new cannabis plants. Though it may be a bit more pricy switching to a solid core stake will prevent bad bugs from crawling in and setting up shop. Solid core stakes are also more easily disinfected. When the room is clean and sterile it is time to bring in the babies.
Sometimes cuttings come with bugs on them. There is no way around it. The cutting supplier may have a mother plant that has an infestation, or their facility may not be as clean as yours now is. If cuttings arrive with pest bugs on them we advise contacting the supplier to let them know. Hopefully they do not want to be supplying infested material and may not have caught the infestation before shipping off their babies. Giving them a heads up will allow them the opportunity to rectify the situation. To make do with what you got, start the rehabilitatuon process by giving the plants a good rinse and quarantining them for a week, if possible. This allows any eggs that may have been laid on the plants to hatch so you can identify the type of pest you are dealing with. If unsure of what pest bug is on the clones, take a picture and send it to us to for identification and recommended treatment options.
The most important part of keeping a new grow pest free is by consistently monitoring plants for signs of negative insects activity. Monitoring is as easy as checking out plants while watering, looking for live bugs or signs that they were there. Spider mites are quite small but can be seen while moving if you look close enough at the underside of the leaves. They leave distinct white speckles on leaves. They also leave the famous webbing on plants.
Thrips are visible to the human eye and can be seen if you look closely. They love to hide in the folds and new growth of the plants so pay extra attention to those areas. Thrips leave a bronze or silver colour defect on plants. Aphids are very easy to spot on plants by their bulbous bodies on the stems and undersides of the leaves. Other signs of an aphid problem could be honeydew or black mold appearing on the leaves. Ants are attracted to honeydew secretions as well so if ants are spotted, there may be a hidden aphid problem. Keep your eyes peeled. Another easy way of monitoring for pests is setting out sticky cards or sticky rolls. These cards and rolls are attractive to the insects because of their bright colour and trap them in glue. The printed grid o the cards is extremely helpful to monitor pest population numbers in a crop.
Releasing the Beneficials
Even if monitoring doesn't uncover any pest insects, preventative beneficials releases can stop problems before they start. Humans can sometimes make mistakes when looking for pests, predatory insects are not as likely to make that mistake. A long release breeding sachet for a predatory mite such as Amblyseius californicus (Neoseiulus californicus) works great as for prevention of spider mites. For thrips prevention you can release Amblyseius cucumeris (Neoseiulus cucumeris). By releasing beneficials early they will catch thrips that may not have been discovered. Additionally, A. cucumeris can eat pollen to survive when no thrips are present. Pollen can be provided by applying a powdered supplement that doesn’t harm the plant.
Maintaining a routine for monitoring for insects, moving from least infested area to most infested area, ensuring a clean facility, and releasing preventative beneficials will keep a grow space ahead of an outbreak.
What do you do to prevent insect outbreaks? Let us know in the comments!