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Protect Your Garden:  How to Spot and Control 4 Common Cannabis Pests 

Every cannabis grower – whether indoor and outdoor – is likely to encounter pests at some point, whether they be insects, bacteria or fungi. As a cultivator, it’s your responsibility to identify these afflictions and take steps to minimize the risk of problems resulting from their presence in your garden. 

Here’s a run-down of four common cannabis pests to look for, plus tips for spotting them in your garden:

#1: Spider Mites

Spider mites are among the most frustrating of all cannabis pests. They’re extremely small and like to hide on the underside of cannabis leaves, which makes them hard to spot and eradicate. The most notable signs they leave are their bite marks, which appear as pale spots on the leaves. 

It can be difficult to identify spider mites (and their eggs) with the naked eye. Many cultivators rely on high-powered handheld digital microscopes to get a close-up view of their plants and catch issues early on – before they turn into bigger problems. 

#2: Cannabis Aphids

Aphids are less common than spider mites, but they can still wreak havoc on your garden. Adult aphids found on cannabis are small, about 1 to 3 mm long, and range in color from yellow to green to brown. Immature or nymph aphids are nearly microscopic, and may appear white or translucent. 

Aphids feed on cannabis leaves, taking the nutrients from the plant and leaving behind a thick, sticky substance called honeydew. This substance can attract a type of fungus called black sooty mold, which discolors the plant. The drops of sweet honeydew may also attract ants, which can spell disaster for your cannabis plants. Not only do ants destroy root systems, but they also protect aphid colonies and allow them to continue spreading. 

#3: Powdery Mildew

White Powdery Mildew (WPM) is a type of parasitic fungus that affects a wide range of cannabis strains. Recognizable by its dusty white appearance, the WPM grows very quickly and can destroy entire crops. But moldy cannabis isn’t just a nuisance for growers; it can be a major health hazard if it reaches consumers, whether it is smoked or ingested. Individuals with weakened immune systems (such as cancer patients) using medical cannabis infested with the fungus can experience serious complications. Healthy individuals may experience difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting. 

WPM commonly occurs when cannabis plants are exposed to stressful conditions. Too much heat, high humidity and poor airflow can all lead to an infestation. However, the most common culprit for WPM growth is a non-hygienic growing environment. Ensuring employees are changing clothes, washing their hands and using an air shower prior to entering your facility is vital to maintaining a sterile environment and preventing cannabis contamination. 

#4: Russet Mites

Russet mites, or hemp mites, are part of the eriophyid family of mites. They are one species of the 100 or so plant-specific eriophyid species, including gall, rust and blister mites. The microscopic russet mite is among the hardest to detect, and are one of the most devastating and hard to manage infestations a garden can deal with. Visible only in large clusters, a single mite is too tiny to be seen by the human eye without magnification of 10x and higher. Their near invisibility makes these mites a unique threat to become established in your garden before you realize it.

Unlike spider mites, these voracious plant pests leave no webbing or other secretions when present. Visible damage to the plant is the first indication of its presence, and damage is often mistaken for mineral and other nutritional deficits. Because of their size, they’re effectively dispersed by wind, and between grow environments on clothes or shoes. Once a facility is infested with Russets, it takes a considerable amount of time, attention and resources to remove the infestation.

Good IPM practices and early detection are key

We all know how the saying goes: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Having an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) Strategy in place before plants come into your grow space is a must. Making sure all staff is briefed and clear about these practices, and that they are followed will keep your garden clean and clear of costly pests and contamination. But even if you follow best practices for pest prevention, problems can still occur. To protect your cannabis garden, it’s essential to arm yourself with knowledge about the health of your plants in every stage of the growth cycle. 

If you’re ready to get up close and personal with your cannabis to identify pests, fungi and disease, we highly recommend the Dino-Lite Microscope Series. These powerful, portable digital microscopes connect to your garden or processing terminal with a standard USB, providing a detailed view of your plants and soil so you can spot and identify pests and infection quickly and accurately. Dino-Lite will offer a 10x to 250x magnification capability to your IPM arsenal.

A Dino-Lite microscope can also be used to monitor and photograph cannabis plants on a macro level, allowing you to showcase the rich colors of your cannabis and help cultivators see when trichome heads reach their peak cannabinoid potency. This type of macro trichome photography is highly popular in the cannabis community, especially on social media. Many cultivators use their Dino-Lite scopes as a quality control tool and as a marketing tool to promote their brand! 

At Delta9, we’re proud to offer Dino-Lite microscope cameras and other cutting-edge products for cannabis professionals. Contact us today for details, demos and consultation! 

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Chris Guthrie
Chris is the General Manager of Delta9 Systems, a division of General Data Co. He is an expert in the cannabis industry, having participated in the birth of the cannabis industry in Washington, and has operated one of the first and oldest medical dispensaries in Seattle. For a decade, Chris has participated in the design and managed the construction of dozens of indoor gardens, and has been involved in cultivation, processing, retail operations, as well as industry activism.
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