Aphids look very different depending on their stage of life. The bigger, rounder bugs are adult aphids, while the white, smaller, thinner bugs are young aphids (nymphs). Note: If you’re seeing white bugs that look like tiny fat worms, you may actually have thrips.
Sometimes when growers see tiny “Black Fly” or “Green Fly” bugs on their cannabis, they’re actually seeing aphids with wings. Winged aphids can be dark or pale, and may be black, green, red or yellow. However, the general body shape is usually pretty similar whether aphids have wings or not.Because many aphids that attack cannabis are green, sometimes people don’t recognize aphids when they’re a different color (like young aphids, which appear red, or black aphids).Aphids are a common cannabis problem. Adults are usually small and oval-shaped and may have discernible wings or antennae. Nymph aphids are thin/long and usually white.
Aphids pierce cannabis leaves with their sucking mouthparts and feed on the juices inside. They usually occur in colonies located mainly on the undersides of stems and leaves.
If a cannabis plant becomes heavily infested, its leaves can turn yellow and/or wilt due to the excessive stress and leaf damage. Another problem with aphids is they produce large amounts of a sweet substance known as “hondeydew,” a sugary liquid waste. Honeydew drops from these insects can attract a type of fungus called sooty mold and can grow on honeydew deposits accumulating on the leaves and branches of your plant, turning them black. The drops of sweet honeydew can also attract other insects such as ants.
Your plant can become infested when winged “colonizer” aphids land on the plant and lay eggs. Although you may not see the winged version of an aphid actually eating your plant, they are still dangerous because they can lay eggs and start a new aphid colony! Winged aphids are sometimes called “blackfly y” or “greenfly y” bugs depending on the color (because they are often black or green/yellow, and they look like tiny flies). It’s difficult to prevent aphids from getting to your cannabis plants outdoors, as just a handful of winged aphids is all it takes to start an infestation. The eggs soon hatch into a juvenile form of aphids called “nymphs,” which happily start munching on your plant. Immature aphids (nymphs) usually appear white and feed on plant sap while they gradually increase in size.
Note: If you see tiny white bugs but they look round, fat and more worm-like than these ones, you may actually have thrips. The aphid nymphs mature in 7 to 10 days and shed their skin, leaving silvery exoskeletons behind on your plants. After reaching their wingless adult form (aphids don’t grow wings when actively colonizing your plant) they are soon ready to give birth to live young and start the process over again.
Most aphids in this form are female, and each one is capable of producing dozens of offspring. Because of their quick reproduction, a few winged aphid “colonizers” can lead to hundreds or even thousands of aphids on a plant in just a few generations. A full-blown aphid infestation can get out of control in just a few weeks! Aphids often keep reproducing on the plant until the plant becomes so stressed (or the conditions become so crowded) that the plant can no longer support their ravenous appetites. At that point some of the aphids are born with wings, and these winged aphids fly off in search of a new host, starting the process over again on a new plant victim.
Solution to Aphids: Get Rid of Them Quick!
Avoid using nervous system insecticides, such as malathion, Dursban (chlorpyrifos), and Orthene (acephate). They are labelled for use on many shade trees and ornamental plants for aphid control but are not safe to use on cannabis. If something isn’t safe to be used on edible plants, then chances are it’s not safe to use on cannabis.
The best way to prevent an aphid infestation is to catch it as soon as possible. When growing outdoors it’s pretty difficult to predict when winged “colonizer” aphids will appear, so it’s incredibly important to examine your plants at least weekly to make sure they don’t become infested while you’re not paying attention.
Examine the bud area and undersides of the new leaves for clusters or colonies of small aphids (or any other types of bugs). The presence of these colonies indicates that the aphids are established on the plants and their numbers will begin to increase rapidly.
If your plant is heavily infested, it’s a good idea to try to cut down their numbers in every way possible. Depending on the infestation, one way to do that may be to simply move your plants outside and spray as many bugs off as you can with a power sprayer. It’s also a good idea to remove leaves and buds that are heavily infected. If possible, spray off as many bugs as you can! A One-Hand Pressure Sprayer is perfect for misting plants. Get Insecticidal soap to kill cannabis aphids – available on Amazon.
Fatty acid salts or insecticidal soaps can be a good choice against aphids. They weaken the outer shell of aphids but are safe to use on your plants and they don’t leave much of a residue. With soaps, coverage is very important as it does not stay on your plant for long, so follow-up applications may be necessary. Although this is considered safe, avoid getting any on your buds!
Spinosad Products (safe & organic) – Spinosad products are organic and completely harmless to pets, children, and plants. Spinosad products can be used directly to kill aphids on contact and should be sprayed liberally anywhere you see aphids and especially under the leaves. Although maybe not as strong against pests as some of the harsher insecticides, it does work and it’s very safe for plants, animals and humans! Recommended: Monterey Garden Insect Spray with Spinosad Spinosad products are organic and kill spider mites, caterpillars and thrips. Spinosad is an organic insecticide made
from the fermentation of a specific soil bacteria (actinomycete Saccharopolyspora spinosa) and kills aphids via ingestion or contact by effecting the insect’s nervous system. Spinosad can be a good choice for organic and outdoor growers, because it is very toxic to aphids, but is less toxic to many beneficial insects and spiders.Note: Most spinosad products are effective for only about 24 hours after being mixed with water, so only mix as much as you will need per application.
Anything left over will be waste. You will need a mister (also called a “One-Hand Pressure Sprayer”) to cover all the leaves evenly when spraying them with spinosad products. A One-Hand Pressure Sprayer is perfect for misting plants.
Beneficial insects, such as lady beetles, ladybugs, and lacewings may eat large numbers of aphids and are welcome guests in the garden. Although you can order ladybugs to release around your plants, they tend to fl y away in just a day or two. Additionally, the reproductive capability of aphids is so great that the impact of the natural enemies may not be enough keep aphids at or below acceptable levels after an infestation has already gotten started. Ladybugs are good to have around the garden – they eat aphids and other annoying cannabis pests!Many other “lady bird” type beetles also eat aphids. This scary looking black bug is actually a young ladybird larva, so don’t kill it! They devour aphids as youngsters too, so it’s good to let them do their thing.
In some cases, ants naturally “farm” (tend to) aphids in the wild in order to collect their honeydew. How crazy is that? Ants can actually be helping keep your aphid numbers up! So for some cannabis growers, controlling an ant problem can actually help control an aphid problem.If you have ants, get rid of them! They can make an aphid problem worse!
Written In Weed World Magazine Issue 142