By Max Sargent

When growing cannabis, especially outdoors, infestations from pest insects are a real threat—and can become a real problem. This list of potentially problematic insects is very long, as are the ways of dealing with them.

In this article, we explore whether ants pose a risk to your cannabis garden, and what you can do about them.

Are Ants a Problem for Cannabis Plants?

Are ants attracted to weed? Do ants eat weed? These are important questions to know the answers to, as you will almost definitely find ants wandering among your cannabis garden, especially if you’re growing outdoors.

The quick answer is that, if you find some ants on or around your cannabis plants, it needn’t be a sign that anything is wrong. Ants exist pretty much everywhere, and will explore large territories in search of food—these territories include your cannabis plants.

Occasionally, though, ants can become problematic for your grow. To answer the two questions above: no, ants are not directly attracted to cannabis, and they won’t usually eat it. So, what’s there to worry about?

Ant on a Cannabis plant

First, ants may build nests around the root systems of your weed plants. As the nests increase in size, this incessant tunnelling can become problematic and might damage the roots. This could then lead to stunted growth and poor production.

Second, ants are avid farmers (or should we say aphid farmers?). They feast on the sugary secretions created by aphids and whiteflies. More than just being opportunists, if ants discover a colony of these creatures living on your plants, then they may protect and harvest them.

By protecting them from predators, such as ladybugs, their numbers will swell. The bad news? Aphids and whiteflies will devour you cannabis plants, and an unchecked infestation can cause serious damage, or even death.

So, as we humans destroy rainforests in order to farm cattle, ants will destroy cannabis plants by farming aphids or whiteflies.

How to Spot an Ant Infestation on Your Cannabis Plants

As mentioned, spotting ants on your grow doesn’t mean you’ve uncovered an infestation. Signs of an infestation might be:

  • A very large number of ants on your plants
  • A nest in the soil around your plants
  • Large numbers of aphids, whiteflies, or mealybugs
  • Pale, drooping plants (however, if not accompanied by other signs, it is unlikely that ants would be the cause of this)

How to Get Rid of Ants on Weed Plants: Natural Solutions

Ant colonies are robust, but there’s only so much they can take until they decide to move to a more hospitable environment. Below, we’ll outline purely natural, organic ways to remove ants from a weed garden.

How to get rid of ants on weed plants

Cinnamon Powder or Ground Coffee

Ants are not fond of cinnamon nor ground coffee. Therefore, these household ingredients are one of the best ways to get rid of ants.

At first, if you see that the ants are just beginning to burrow into the soil, simply dump a spoonful of ground cinnamon or coffee wherever you see a large concentration. In many cases, the pungent aromas of these substances will be enough to deter them.

If this fails, all is not lost! Mix either ground coffee or cinnamon with water (you can use the same amount you’d normally water your plants with), then just evenly water the soil. As the cinnamon or coffee runs down into the soil, it should cause the ants to disperse.

Neem Oil

Neem oil is a precious ally of the organic cannabis grower. This essential oil comes from the neem tree and contains powerful insecticide compounds. It has been used in horticulture, and also in ethnomedicine, for centuries. It can be sprayed directly on plants as an immediate pesticide, or even every week or so as a preventative measure. Neem oil doesn’t harm beneficial animals like ladybugs, bees, and earthworms, and it can also be added to irrigated water to prevent root rot.

A good pesticide mix can be prepared with 1 teaspoon of neem oil and just 5 drops of surfactant per litre of water. A surfactant, such as dish soap, is useful because neem oil does not mix well with water. Using warm water makes the mixing process even easier. Just allow the mix to cool off before applying it on your plants. A sprayer with the finest possible setting will be necessary to mist the tops and bottoms of all the leaves.

Neem oil may not be the best solution if you have ants nesting in the soil, but it is perfect if you notice a colony of ants farming a colony of some other insect directly on your plants. The neem oil will deal with both at once.

How to get rid of ants on weed plants

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a natural and safe pest control method that doesn’t harm plants or growers by releasing toxic chemicals. Instead, diatomaceous earth, also known as diatomite, is a siliceous rock originating from fossilised remains of small beings with a hard shell. It can be easily crumbled into a powder, and has many industrial applications. Diatomite is a beautiful mechanical insecticide, and this is what interests cannabis growers.

The abrasive nature of this “shell powder” scrapes away insects’ exoskeleton as they pass by, while its high porosity absorbs any critters’ vital fluids. Not exactly the environment ants will try to colonise, and not something a parasite can develop a resistance to, as opposed to chemicals. Plus, diatomite improves soil’s moisture retention, holding water, drying slowly, and increasing the oxygenation of the substrate.

Some caution is needed when handling diatomaceous earth because it can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract.

Beneficial Insects

There are certain insects that eat ants, including wasps, beneficial nematodes, spiders, and (surprisingly) certain species of butterfly. However, ants live in huge numbers, and inviting in beneficial insects won’t be enough to destroy a colony. What’s more, ants actually protect their livestock from other predatory insects.

That being said, having a rich garden that hosts these insects may make it more difficult for ants to set up store in the first place.

Or, perhaps you could invest in a pet anteater?

Preventing Ants From Damaging Cannabis Plants in the Future

In most cases, a well-cared-for cannabis garden is highly unlikely to be disturbed by ants. They will not seek out cannabis plants, but will only be attracted to them via other insects such as aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs. So, if you can keep your grow clear of these creatures, the chances of ants becoming problematic are very slim.

If you do spot ants becoming a problem, add cinnamon or coffee grounds to the soil and consider spraying your plants with neem oil. Even if you can’t spot anything, this measure might catch the early stages of an infestation, and ward off larger problems.

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