Cannabis attracts a variety of insects, and Spider Mites are no exception. While you might think of them as bugs, they aren’t insects and are more closely related to spiders with eight legs and a lack of antennae.
However, it’s unlikely you’ll notice any of these features because adult mites are only 1/50 of an inch long, and juveniles are even smaller, making them almost impossible to see with the naked eye. In addition, hundreds of spider mite species thrive in all kinds of growing conditions, from cooler to warmer weather, and are drawn to different types of plants.
One of the most common types of spider mites is the two-spotted mite. This pest feeds on over 200 species of plants and is a formidable opponent to various farmers; it thrives in dusty areas and during drought. Since mold is problematic for cannabis growers, a dry growing environment is ideal for spider mites to thrive.
Why Are Spider Mites So Problematic?
Cannabis growers must overcome various challenges for a healthy crop. Spider mites are typically despised by growers with good reason. These tiny but mighty pests reproduce rapidly and prolifically. A single mature female spider mite can produce a million mites in less than a month. Please take into account how hard it is to see these tiny creatures, and this is a problem that can escalate quickly and lead to devastating results.
The next problem with spider mites is their enormous appetite. They can destroy entire plants (especially young and tender plants) in a concise amount of time. An infestation has been known to kill entire plants overnight. If they don’t kill your plants, they can leave behind damaging webbing. Spider mites tend to cover the leaves and buds of cannabis plants with a fine mesh of silk webbing that effectively ruins whole crops.
Spider mites can be tough to get rid of. Many farmers have experienced the spider mites’ famous disappearing act. It’s common for them to appear to be gone, allowing you to breathe a sigh of relief, only to come back with a vengeance a few days or weeks later. They also carry an incredible amount of resistance, meaning if you treat them with sprays, they can quickly become immune to whatever you do to try to kill them. If you don’t take care of your spider mite problem with a total eradication in your grow space, you might soon find you have a population of super mites who have built up an insecticide tolerance. These are often referred to as “borg” spider mites.
What Are Early Signs of Spider Mites?
The best way to protect your plants from pests is to set up your grow space well with quality equipment that works with you to provide a clean, pest-free environment. Choosing the right lights and equipment can go a long way in preventing the battle in the first place.
Your second line of defense is knowing what pests to look out for and how to identify them. For example, spider mites are often spotted after a web has been formed. Mites can be tan, green, or red and characteristically have two spots on their backs, making them easier to identify; their eggs are round and straightforward and usually only 0.1 millimeters in diameter. The eggs are often laid in groups on the undersides of leaves or in the webbing.
When spider mites hatch, the young mites only have six legs, much like an insect, but once they mold, they will take on the more recognizable eight legs. Adult females are easier to spot because they are larger and rounder than males. Unfortunately, because of their small size, most farmers will see damage to the plants before they spot the actual mites.
Spider mites feed by consuming the contents of a plant’s epidermal cells. This process removes the chlorophyll and causes the leaf surface to appear as if it has small white spots. Once the damage is done the leaf will not recover or turn green again. As the population grows, the mites will start webbing the left surface. Within the web, mites will lay their eggs and be protected from the environment.
If left untreated, the webbing created by spider mites can completely cover plants. At this point, growers cannot save the plants, and the population is extremely high.
How Do You Protect Cannabis From Spider Mites?
The adage “prevention is better than a cure” applies here too. So setting up your grow space with equipment that does the preventative work for you is an important place to start. That is why we love the Moonwalker SB1 commercial grow light. This is the only light of its kind integrated with pest-mold-free technology. It’s worth the investment and offers previously unimaginable solutions to these problems.
Once you have a quality setup, the next step of protection is a scouting program. This involves training yourself or hiring someone to scout your facility regularly to ensure pests do not become a problem. Many growers consider quality equipment like the Moonwalker SB1 and a trained pest scout part of their essential pest management program.
What Does A Scout Do?
Ideally, a good scout prevents major infestations by flipping and searching suspected leaves and checking them with a hand lens. There are many tactics a good scout can use to identify pest problems early; some scouts use tools like a black or white plastic board and tap foliage so they can quickly identify the pests as they fall. Good scouts can observe whether beneficial bugs are present and note things like which cultivars mites prefer. They will monitor what populations are thriving and what needs to be addressed. However, scouts are helpful and can provide a lot of data. Ultimately, the decisions for the next steps are always left up to the grower. Educating yourself well will help you make the right decisions in critical moments.