In a day and age when consumers are increasingly concerned about pesticides and other harmful chemicals making their way into their food supply, farmers across the nation are incorporating natural pest prevention measures into their gardens and farms. Cannabis farms are no different, particularly since the leading organic cannabis certifier (Clean Green Certified) pays special attention to pest control methods during their in-depth certification process.
If you’re a cannabis cultivator who is curious about beneficial insects and how they can help your cannabis plants, read on for more information.
Why should I use beneficial insects?
Ultimately, beneficial insects help create a better environment for your cannabis plants. They work by removing pests without the need for harmful chemicals, but they also nurture companion plants, boost biodiversity, and can help prevent the spread of disease. Although the sight of some insects is enough to send shudders down the spine of cannabis growers, many can do cannabis plants a world of good.
CULTA’s outdoor Cambridge campus is home to over 3,000 cannabis plants, and we’re proud to say that we incorporate beneficial insects into our IPM (integrated pest management). Additionally, we’ve also landscaped beneficial native plants into the surrounding fields and pond.
The best insects for your cannabis garden
If all of this sounds good, you may be wondering which insects are the most beneficial for cannabis. From ladybugs to praying mantis, we’ll touch on some of the best options below. Remember: this list is not exhaustive, and the best insects and companion plants for your own farm depend on a variety of factors, including the specific pests you’re trying to mitigate.
Ladybugs might be the most recognizable bug around, but they’re also one of the most beneficial for cannabis plants. They prey on aphids, which are one of the most common garden pests. In fact, they love aphids so much that a single ladybug can eat up to 60 aphids in one day (according to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment) -- that’s up to 5,000 during their lifetime. Ladybugs are attracted to dill and fennel, so you can plant these nearby to attract them naturally. Alternatively, you can also purchase them in bulk online.
Dalotia coriaria, or the rove beetle, feed on fungus gnats, pupating thrips, and root aphids. If you’ve overwatered your cannabis (or live in a particularly wet region like the East Coast), fungus gnats might be an issue. If they are, you can order rove beetles online and release them in the affected areas. Another nice thing about rove beetles is that they can fly and will navigate through your farm looking for a snack. Unfortunately, the lifespan of rove beetles is about three weeks, so you’ll need to continually add them to your farm.
The larvae of green lacewings are the best for pest control, but they’ll need to be released as soon as possible because they’ll become cannibalistic in the absence of prey. They love gorging down on aphids and mealybugs, but they’ll eat whiteflies and scale insects, too. If you receive green lacewings as eggs, avoid placing them on the ground because ants love eating them, and handle them with care -- they’re known to bite humans, but it’s rare and their bites are non-toxic. Like ladybugs, green lacewings are attracted to dill and fennel.
Another insect that can become cannibalistic, praying mantis are great for your garden but should be kept apart from each other. They love to feast on aphids, whiteflies, moths, and mosquitoes and are naturally attracted to dill, fennel, and marigolds. Of course, you can also purchase praying mantis eggs online, but keep in mind that hatching can take up to six weeks, depending on the age of the eggs. Once hatched, they’ll disperse throughout your garden and will meticulously stalk and kill their prey.
Other important insects
As mentioned, this list isn’t exhaustive -- we just wanted to cover some of the most popular and recognizable insects. Here are some other beneficial insects to consider, plus the pests they help control:
- Delphastus catalinae- whitefly
- Insidious flower bug- thrips
- Hypoaspis miles- thrips, fungus gnats
- Nematodes- fungus gnats, thrips
- Stratiolaelaps- fungus gnats, thrips, aphids, mites
- Amblyseius andersoni- mites
A note about companion plants
We mentioned a few companion plants above, but here are some general companion plants to consider. Of course, the ones you choose should depend on the type of beneficial insect you’re trying to attract:
Some of the above can also be used as cover crops -- plants that are planted to cover the soil rather than be harvested. Cover crops can help manage soil erosion, among other benefits.
Biodiversity is key
At the end of the day, incorporating beneficial insects into your cannabis farm can help support pest control, but only if they’re happy in their environment. The more life there is on your farm, the happier and healthier your plants will be -- and this life includes insects, bees, mites, and companion plants. Adding companion plants and beneficial insects to your garden together will help produce healthy soil and provide the ideal environment in which your cannabis plants will thrive.
To learn more about CULTA’s indoor and outdoor cultivation, soil, seeds, and harvesting, click here.