Ideas for Natural Pesticides for Your Cannabis Grow

spraying pesticides for cannabis

Maybe you’re a professional grower, or maybe you’re brand new to the world of home-growing marijuana; either way, there is a lot to pay attention to. Even if you’ve figured out the perfect combination of light, temperature, water, and the like, you can’t forget that there’s a third party that may be seeking to get involved in the grow: pests. In a world that’s becoming increasingly human engineered and genetically designed, pesticides have become more prominent than ever, and cannabis plants are no exception to that rule. It's important to know what sort of pests to look out for and what you can do to stop them, but it’s also important to note the potentially negative effects of using pesticides on plants that will be consumed by humans. It might be time to look into some natural pesticides for cannabis.

What Pests Can I Expect to See?

caterpillar on plant

Before you can investigate natural pesticides for cannabis and solutions to keeping your cannabis plants healthy, it's imperative to know what exactly the problem is. There are a few pest species that are more common than others. Some are known as sucking insects, which pull nutrients out of the plant and can hinder its health, while others are known as chewing insects, which – just as it sounds – are capable of eating sections or whole portions of cannabis plants. Here are a few you might come across:

  • Spider mites are common, feeding on the chlorophyll of leaves. They are very small but are known to make webs and can be seen with magnification.
  • Fungus gnats can appear, and because they fly, they are pretty easy to spot. Look out for their larvae, which can spread disease and, in some cases, inhibit growth.
  • Aphids are another type of sucking insect that feed on the leaves of cannabis plants. While they can be seen by the naked eye, they often stick to the underside of leaves and stems.

The chewing insects are a bit more recognizable, including caterpillars, snails, and slugs, to name a few. Caterpillars will leave obvious holes in leaves, but they may camouflage. Snails and slugs will do the same while also leaving behind a mucus trail.

This is not an inclusive list, but it may be a good key to the obvious predators of cannabis plants.

What Pesticides Will Fix the Problem?

close up of marijuana plants growing

There are a variety of natural pesticides for cannabis that have been proven effective in managing bugs on cannabis plants.

A common term you may hear in pest management in "integrated pest management" (IPM). The phrase encompasses any system designed to control pests, and there are both organic and non-organic IPM solutions to pest infestations. Non-organic methods may include synthetic insecticides and genetically modified products; these can be effective, but they are not always the safest or most environmentally friendly. It's best to go with organic products, here are some natural pesticides for cannabis:

Pyrethrins

Pyrethrin flowers that can be used as cannabis pesticides

Pyrethrins are plants from the chrysanthemum family and work as natural pesticide to many of the common creatures mentioned above. They are best when used on an early stage plant.

Neem Oil

neem oil, a natural pesticide for cannabis, in a jar

Neem oil is a repellant that comes from tree oil. It's not fool proof and may be dangerous to household pets, but it does have its uses.

Essential Oils

cinnamon essential oil

Essential oils, like the mint, rosemary, clove, or cinnamon ones many of us may use in an oil diffuser, can actually work effectively against insects and fungus spores.

 

Insecticidal Soap

small marijuana plant growing out of the ground

Insecticidal soap is a safe and common organic pesticide. It should be used sparingly to avoid a burning effect, but it can sufficiently kill things like aphids and mites.

Potassium Bicarbonate

spraying plant with pesticide

Potassium bicarbonate is actually a food additive, but it works well to combat fungus on marijuana plants. Some suggest mixing with milk and water for a more effective treatment.

If these natural pesticides for cannabis are not working well for you, consider introducing a predatory mite to control your problem pests. This is best for outdoor growers rather than indoor growers, but it is a viable solution to pick a predatory species to restore equilibrium. The key is choosing the right insect to bring in and to do so safely and securely.

Ensure Proper Pesticide Use

indoor marijuana growing with lights

According to Cannabis Business Times, there are common mistakes that many growers make when trying to eliminate pests with different pesticides. Perhaps the most important thing is to correctly identify the pest, because you cannot solve a problem if you do not know exactly what it is. Do your research and get a second opinion. Once the problem has been identified, use the right pesticides, and use them as a remedy for specific problems. Don't try to be a mixologist and overwhelm your cannabis plants with more chemicals than they need, and remember that most pesticides are preventative. Use the right amount, and start small by doing a patch test before drenching your plants.

Overall, do your research before using a cannabis pesticide on your plants. There are a lot of variables to consider, and you just want to make the best decisions for the health of your plants.

Effects of Using Pesticides

outdoor young marijuana plants

Pesticides in general are creating a great deal of problems in the environment, and growers using them on cannabis plants can certainly contribute to this. Due to the overuse of pesticides, some plants or commercial crops have become immune. As those in the food industry continue to genetically modify plants for higher yields, pesticide efficacy can change. In some cases, crops are requiring higher doses or more intense chemicals. Some pesticide chemicals may appear in food products and contribute to problems in the environment in all sorts of capacities. If they enter the food chain, even at the smallest and lowest level, they can affect humans and different species at various levels.

Problems have arisen within the world of cannabis regarding pesticides; according to a recent Associated Press report, some marijuana products in California tested positive for pesticides, mold, and bacteria, such as E. coli. Although some question the accuracy of these reports and others question if it’s even harmful to ingest marijuana products with such properties, the contaminations are something to note. There may be unintended consequences if products like edibles begin to carry pesticide chemicals.

Some states have started to set regulations about which pesticides are and are not acceptable to use for cannabis. These are important to follow in order to ensure the health of your cannabis plants and the environment around you. Marijuana growers are in an especially interesting position right now, as they are at the center of a new and booming industry. If they begin by setting high standards for environmental health and awareness, they can avoid contributing to the current state of climate change and create a positive impact, even setting the bar for other industries.

Growing marijuana requires the same attention to pests and pest control as other plants. It's imperative to know how to keep an eye out for bugs, how to treat effected plants, and how pesticide use can affect the wider environment. There are a wide variety of options for pesticides, organic and non-organic, that have different uses on plants, bugs, and the environment. Do some research to find the best option for your grow.


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Marisa Petersen
Marisa is a media and English student based in Colorado and Upstate New York. She loves writing and journalism; her favorite articles to write are theatre, music, and film reviews. Some of her other passions include traveling, cooking, and reading.