Aphids, spider mites, white flies and fungus gnats are the bane of a professional cannabis grower’s existence. If you are searching for a more natural alternative to harsh pesticides to deter pests, using attractor plants can help.
With over 30 years of experience in the business, Farmer Tom Lauerman, also known as “Farmer Tom,” says Mother Nature’s natural born killers can keep your pest problems to a minimum. “Using specific plant species or attractor plants to entice predatory insects to your grow site is the safest, most organic option for ridding your plants of pests,” he said. “I have been using attractor plants for decades and they work like a charm.” He refers to his attractor plants as “trap plants” and says his favorite plant species to use are faba beans, bush beans and eggplant.
The low down on predatory insects
The top three predatory insects that you want lounging in and around your grow site are lacewings, ladybugs and preying mantises. These beneficial predatory insects have healthy appetites, and Lauerman says the more you attract, the better. But they can’t survive on aphids alone. Provide a water source and adequate ground cover along with fragrant, brightly colored attractor plants, and you’ve got a powerful recipe to fight off pests. For example, low-growing herbs such as thyme and oregano offer ladybugs ground cover during the day, while clustering fragrant, brightly colored flowering plants together can offer a stable, friendly predatory insect environment.
Lacewings: Also known as nature’s “aphid lions,” these tiny insects are avid aphid lovers. One lacewing can consume hundreds of aphids in a day. They also feast on spider mites and their offspring. Plant species that attract lacewings include dill, angelica, golden marguerite, four-wing saltbush, purple poppy mallow, caraway, coriander, cosmos white sensation, Queen Anne’s lace and fennel.
Ladybugs: These are a cannabis plant’s BFF. Not only are adult ladybugs starved for aphids, ladybug larvae will eat more pests than adults do. Plant species that attract ladybugs include fern-leaf yarrow, common yarrow, carpet bugleweed, basket of gold, dill, golden marguerite, butterfly weed, coriander, Queen Anne’s lace and marigolds.
Preying mantises: As true carnivores, they will only eat what they capture themselves and, as a bonus, their young are voracious eaters. They eat aphids, but they also consume everything else, including their mates. Plant species that attract preying mantises include cosmos, marigolds, dill, eggplant and bush beans.
How to Get Started Using Attractor Plants
Lauerman suggests growing your attractor plants from seeds and, when they have sprouted, transferring them to pots. Using potted plants allows growers to easily transfer and rotate throughout growing cycles and in-between harvests. To get started, place the potted attractor plants on the perimeter of your grow site and scattered throughout your cannabis plants. Attractor plants can be used for warehouse grows, outdoor grow sites and in greenhouses, since their effectiveness is beneficial to all types of growing. Additionally, attractor plants can be used throughout each stage of cannabis growth because their effectiveness to attract predatory insects is evident at all stages.
To learn more about Farmer Tom, organic farmer, social activist and educator, visit www.farmertomorganics.com.
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