Growing organic cannabis is a rewarding process and the end result is a clean, chemical-free harvest. Organic growing doesn’t only benefit the farmer and the people who consume weed, it’s also much more beneficial to the environment. One of the biggest challenges that organic growers will come across is pest control.

Although chemical pesticides are indeed effective at protecting crops against insect invasions, they wreak havoc on the environment. Certain pesticides have been found to harm bee populations and may even be linked to chronic diseases in humans. Residues are also often found on crops after harvests, meaning every lungful of non-organic cannabis smoke is likely to contain these noxious chemicals.

Just because organic growers don’t use chemicals doesn’t mean they are out of options in regards to pest defence. An effective, natural, and utterly fascinating means of managing pests is to introduce beneficial insects into your growing environment. This is known as biological pest control. Several species of predatory insects feed on many common cannabis pests and it doesn’t take them long to reduce their numbers.

By choosing insects to act as guardians of your crop you’ll boost the biodiversity of your garden, keep your plants safe, and prevent further damage to an already tired and contaminated environment. Plus, watching these minute beings patrol leaves and stems in search of a snack is quite interesting. Gaze away and let the David Attenborough voice in your head loose!

Below we’ll cover some of the most beneficial insects that can keep your garden safe from pests.

GREEN LACEWINGS WILL WIPE OUT APHIDS

Green lacewings are insects that belong to the Chrysopidae family. These narrow and bright green critters have large, usually translucent wings and golden compound eyes. They grow to a length of 1–1.5cm and their peak activity in the northern hemisphere is from May to September. Adult specimens are nocturnal in nature and wake up after sunset to feed on a diet of nectar, pollen, and honeydew. However, the larvae are much more brutal and prefer to feast on aphids in large numbers, which has earned them the title of “aphid lions”.

Female green lacewings lay their eggs in a thread-like structure attached to leaves. Larvae eventually emerge from the eggs and subsequently begin to hunt down aphids. Some are capable of devouring 100 of these pests in a week. What’s more, after devouring the internal fluids of an aphid, green lacewing larvae will proceed by wearing the dried-out carcass as a form of disguise, enabling them to carry out sneak attacks on unsuspecting aphids as well as protecting them from predators. Although gruesome, these small larvae do a great job at reducing the numbers of aphids that would otherwise stunt plant growth, damaged leaves, and potentially spread plant diseases.

Green lacewings have also been found to hunt down other pests such as whiteflies, leafhoppers, and mealybugs. Gardeners can lure this beneficial insect into their space by planting dill, angelica, golden marguerite, and coriander among others.

GREEN LACEWINGS WILL WIPE OUT APHIDS

LADYBUGS ARE FORMIDABLE PREDATORS

Ladybugs, also known as ladybirds, are another insect species with a massive appetite for aphids and they’ll also feed on whiteflies and Colorado potato beetles. These creatures belong to the Coccinellidae family, vary in size between 0.8 and 18mm and occur in colours of red, yellow, and orange. They have been used in agriculture to effectively boost crop numbers, which can be attributed to their hunting and devouring of herbivorous insects.

Ladybugs begin their insect-devouring activities early in life whilst in their larval form, where they are known to eat aphids by the hundreds. Once they reach adulthood ladybugs are capable of eating around 50 aphids on a daily basis and are estimated to eat around 5,000 of these pests over their lifespan. They also hunt down spider mites, tiny creatures that are rather dangerous to your cannabis plants.

Ladybugs can be introduced to a garden by cultivating plant species that will attract them to the area. These include dill, dandelion, ferns, cilantro and geranium.

LADYBUGS ARE FORMIDABLE PREDATORS

THE PRAYING MANTIS: THE QUINTESSENTIAL PREDATORY INSECT

The praying mantis is an icon insect known for its unrivalled stealth, patience, and deadliness. They primarily inhabit tropical and subtropical regions of the world, although some species can be found worldwide. These insects got their name due to the prayer-like position of their raptorial forelegs, but also because of the seeming state of meditation that they enter whilst waiting to strike their prey. They move with extreme intelligence, mimicking twigs in the wind as they sway back and forth with each step. But when the time is right, they strike with rapid speed to snatch up their prey.

Mantises primarily prey on invertebrates, such as spiders, hornets, and ants, but shockingly are also known to dispatch and consume vertebrates, such as frogs, lizards, and even birds. Mantises are generalist predators and to satisfy their carnivorous needs they will feed on almost any insect they happen to come across. This is good news when it comes to pests, but it means they will also take a swipe at other beneficial species.

If mantises are suited to the climate you are growing in, they can be attracted to your garden by planting members of the rose and raspberry family.

THE PRAYING MANTIS: THE QUINTESSENTIAL PREDATORY INSECT

USE PREDATORY MITES TO ADDRESS SPIDER MITE INFESTATIONS

As stated, spider mites have a ravenous appetite for cannabis plants. These tiny creatures belong to the Tetranychidae family and reside on the underside of leaves where they create silk webs and feed on the plant sap. Signs of a spider mite infestation include small bite marks of leaves, webs clinging to flowers and leaves, and tiny eggs found under the leaves.

Luckily, spider mites can be fought off by using the predator mite Phytoseiulus persimilis as an insect ally. Predator mites are minute creatures that reach a size of around 0.5mm and sport bright orange and reddish colours. These mites consume between 5–20 spider mites per day and reproduce much faster than their prey. Because of their efficiency at hunting they can easily drive a spider mite infestation to extinction.

Scientific research has shown that mint is effective at attracting predatory mites.

USE PREDATORY MITES TO ADDRESS SPIDER MITE INFESTATIONS

LET ASSASSIN BUGS PATROL THE CANOPY

Assassin bugs are predators that feature specific adaptations that allow them to detect, stalk, and dispatch prey. These features are a sharp, piercing beak, long legs, and round eyes. They are reported as important predators in gardens, where they help to keep aphid, leafhopper, and asparagus beetle populations low. They are also known to hunt and consume caterpillars. Assassin bugs use a similar tactic to mantises to hunt down prey: patience. They either quietly stalk their victim or wait perfectly still until they can use their feeding apparatus to puncture their prey and inject them with a deadly toxin.

Assassin bugs are attracted by a variety of plants such as vegetables and flowering plants. Use companion planting to boost the biodiversity of your garden and you’ll come across these little beasts in no time.

LET ASSASSIN BUGS PATROL THE CANOPY

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