Enroll Now

News and Best Practices

How Beneficial Insects Control Pests

July 5, 2016

One of the hottest issues in the professional cannabis industry is the use of pesticides. Because of the current status of cannabis as a Schedule I drug, there are no FDA approved pesticides for crops, leaving states and cultivators alike to figure it out for themselves. Unfortunately for consumers, this has led to major health concerns as anecdotal incidents of adverse effects continue to trickle in.

As states like Colorado wade through the prickly dilemma of cannabis-safe pesticides, other players in the industry have turned to alternative methods. One company leading the way is Natural Enemies. Founded by entrepreneur Shane Young, Natural Enemies specializes in the use of insects to protect cannabis crops. Known as “beneficial insects” or predatory mites, these tiny creatures hunt and feed on pests hazardous to cannabis, such as fungus gnats, root aphids, spider mites and broad mites.

The predatory mites come from commercial insectaries that breed the mites. Acting as a licensed distributor, Natural Enemies provides the predatory mites to cultivators and advises them on implementation and deployment. Often applied at the base of the plant or directly into the root system, the mites travel up the plant in search of prey.

Although many growers might find the practice of using mites to fight other mites counter-intuitive to what they’re trying to achieve, the process has far fewer consequences than one might think. “There’s no negative impact on using beneficial insects whatsoever on your plant,” Young explained, since they feed on the pests in the garden.

Because the mites feed on only the pests, they quickly start to die after their food source has been eliminated. According to Young, who has a background in plant health management, a big advantage to using beneficial insects for cannabis is their overall effect on the plant, compared to traditional and even organic pesticides. “The natural sprays are actually detergent- or oil-based” and will strip the natural oil off the leaves, Young said. “It becomes a stressed plant at that point when you’re spraying something. It’s not natural.”

Maintaining the proper environment and health of the plant is one of the keys to success when using beneficial insects. “When I give talks about using beneficial insects, I start with things like sanitation, overall plant health and due diligence, etc., and then in the last 20 minutes I get to using beneficial insects,” Young said. “Usually, healthy plants are able to stave off minor intrusions; so if you’re growing a healthy plant, that’s 85 percent along the way.” To put it another way, prevention is far easier than elimination.

As far as the cost of treating plants with predatory mites is concerned, it is difficult to give an average price. Much of what Natural Enemies does is dependent on a multitude of variables that will determine the price, such as number of plants, humidity, quality of the grow operation and so on. Young said some of his clients have seen an overall reduction of costs by as much as 50 percent, although these may not be typical results.

For growers considering using beneficial insects, Young emphasized the point that success is dependent on their personal involvement. “We’re not here to provide a silver bullet for people to magically cure their problems, Young said. “I can give you recommendations all day long on different ways of doing things, but for the most part it’s going to be dependent on how much time they invest into this treatment. I want them to be involved.”

Although using beneficial insects has not had the time to develop into a precise science, companies like Natural Enemies are proving that it can work—provided you’re willing to put in the time and effort to make it work.


By William Sumner
Image Credit: By John Tann from Sydney, Australia (Dark-winged Fungus Gnat) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Cannabis Cultivation Today articles are for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal guidance or advice on grow practices. You should contact an attorney or a qualified cultivation consultant for specific compliance and cultivation advice.

Subscribe to Cannabis Cultivation Today

* indicates required
Sign Up for Cannabis Cultivation Today

© 2019 CAN Performance Group, LLC. All rights reserved.