Ladybugs and Cannabis

Protecting your cannabis plants from pests with lady bugs

Lad bug larvae walking on a cannabis leaf

Hey there and welcome (back) ! 
In today’s article we’re going to checkout ladybugs, these’s awesome little bugs that will help you fight back against many different cannabis pests.
As usual, you can use the table of content below if you know exactly what you’re looking for

Ladybugs and Cannabis | Table of content

Let’s get into it!

The stages of life of Lady bugs

We’re going to go over this section pretty quickly as this isn’t an in-depth article on ladybugs (as lovely as they are), but we thought it important to give you a general overview on their development.
Ladybugs, just like as many other insects, go through 4 stages of development : egg, larvae, pupa and adult.

The 2 stages where they will be active in pest control are in the larvae and adult stage, with a better control over their location during the larvae stage as they can’t fly away yet (still walk pretty fast though ^^)

Here are the stages of life in 4 pictures, click on them to get the full view

Ladybug laying her eggs on a branch

Adult laying eggs
Photo credit : wikimedia.org

focus on a lady bug larvae

Larvae up close
Photo credit : pikist.com

lady bug pupa, larvae base still visible

Pupa
Photo credit : bugguide.net

Fully grown adult
Photo credit : wikimedia.org

Are ladybug larvae or adults better?

Both larvae’s and adults will definitely eat up pests but you should know that adults don’t have as much of an appetite and their younger siblings.
Also keep in mind that adults are able to fly, which is good as they can cover more terrain, but it also means that is you have less control on where they are going to stay and feed. They might just fly away.

Other little pointer, as long as you have enough food for them, the larvae’s will [obviously]grow and become adults, meaning that when you purchase larvae’s, you’re also purchasing adults further down the road. 

focus on a lady bug larvae

Larvae up close
Photo credit : pikist.com

Adult  8-dot ladybug
Photo credit : wikimedia.org

How long can ladybugs live?

The full lifespan of ladybugs in the wild can go from 2 to 3 years, so if you take care of them well, they will stick around and defend your garden for a looooong time 🙂

The other awesome part of defending your garden with predators instead of pesticides is that they reproduce ^^ Once they have settled in your garden, you potentially have protectors for life 

Using ladybug for pests control

Ladybugs are awesome for pest control, if you chose wisely and apply them well! Otherwise, you’ll just watch them hunt and eat each other up.. as we did (it hurts)

The main thing is to make sure you get the right specie of ladybugs.

Pests ladybugs will pray on

Ladybugs used for aphid infestations

Ladybugs, whether larvae or adults, will go down on some aphids. All beneficial ladybugs will eat on aphids without a problem, if this is what you’re fighting you don’t need to worry about the species.
Just make sure you go to a farm that actually raises the larvae and doesn’t hunt them from the wild.

Here’s a little shot of one of our ladybugs trying to catch an aphid, the wind saved its life, half an inch and it was over for it

Ladybugs used for Thrips control

Using lady-bugs for thrips is a bit trickier as it seems like not all species will eat on them. That said, if you have a bad infestation ladybugs are awesome as they have a very big appetite, especially in the larvae stage, just make sure when buying them that the specie you are purchasing feeds on thrips.

With species that feed on thrips a small infestations can be an issue, as your larvae’s might start eating each other, so no need to buy too many!

This is what happened to us, day one they ate all the adult thrips, and by the end of the day some larvae started hunting others.
By the end of the next day, we had 2 larvae left (out of 35).  We re-introduced 15 larvae’s we had kept on the side.. by day 3, they had eaten each other up, leaving about 1 larvae standing on each plant (one plant had 2 for another day).

At that point the adults thrips were gone, seemed like this was a partial success but… a couple days later we noticed thrips larvae.

Our hypothesis is that there were eggs left, since they take 3 to 7 days to hatch, our ladybugs had finished killing each other by the time they had hatched.. allowing the surviving larvae’s to grow and reach adulthood.

How to introduce Ladybugs to your cannabis plants

Introducing your ladybugs well into your environnement is a very important step in the process. The 2 big aspects we found were coverage and the fact that we are dealing with live insects, this isn’t just apply and come back later. 

larvae crawling on plant

In order to avoid previous mistakes made, especially with spidermite predators, we decided to introduce the larvae’s in multiple rounds to observe their reaction to the environnement. Were they going to stay on the plants, crawl all over the place, actually hunt the thrips, all leave and meet in the same spot of the garden, who knows. 
Turns out, they started covering the plants pretty quickly and feeding on the adult thrips [whoops spoiling you]

How we added ladybug larvae to our cannabis plants

  • Take out one popcorn at a time. You will have multiple larvae on one popcorn (we noticed from 2 to 7).
  • Close the box after taking out the popcorn to avoid having the other larvae crawl out of there.
    Be careful that there aren’t any larvae in the way when you close it.  
  • Either let the larvae crawl off the popcorn into the palm of your hand, or carefully pick them up (be careful to be veeeery light handed!)
  • Place the larvae directly on the leaves of your infested plants. The closer to the infestation, the faster they will get to hunting!
  • After introducing a couple ladybugs per plant, we stopped introducing any more for a couple hours in order to check up on how they’re acting.
    We saw that they were doing good, crawling on the plants and topsoil so we decided to introduce more.
    You might notice that the conditions are making them leave the area or act weirdly, in that case try to improve the conditions for them before re-introducing more individuals
  • During that day we noticed them eating up all adult thrips, a couple aphids (that we hadn’t noticed originally). 

Be very careful to

  • Handle the larvae with care, they are very sensitive, grab them too hard and you might just squish them 🙁
  • Cover you area widely – even larvae can cover a lot of area
  • Have enough of an infestation for them to eat. Otherwise you will observe them hunt, and eat, each other. All you will have left are a couple live larvae, the rest will be skin hanging on to foliage.
  • Not to drop them… A couple feet for us isn’t much, but they will take a hard hit, we lost 2 out of 7 due to a drop (see image below) 
  • Be aware that indoor growing light systems can make them behave weirdly as the spectrum of light isn’t the same as the sunlight. In this case, try introducing them at night.

 

larvae dropped on the floor - 2 dead

Popcorn with 7 larvae dropped – 2 fatally wounded

Here’s a couple pictures showing you how we added the ladybugs to our cannabis plants plus 2 pictures of them going about their business. You can click on them to get the full view

Introducing ladybugs to your cannabis plant : The step by step in 6 pictures

Lady bug larvae arrived in the mail

Ladybug larvae received in box with food

larvaes crawling on pop corn

2 larvae crawling on pop-corn

Placing the larvae on leaf with fingers

Introducing larvae to thrip infested plant

larvae freshly introduced to cannabis plant

Larvae freshly introduced to cannabis plant

ladybug larvae walking down the stem

Patrolling our plant, eating up thrips and other unfriendly insects

Ladybug larvae hunting aphid

Larvae closing in on an aphid

Can you use Pesticides and Ladybugs?

The short answer is no it may, and probably will, also kill them along with the insect(s) you are targeting.
After introducing the ladybugs into your environnement you are going to want to stop any chemical, or organic, pesticides, even a black soap spray. You don’t want to kill the little ones you’ve just placed.

For chemical pesticides it is recommended not to apply any on your plants at least 2 weeks prior to introducing your predators

Insects that will hunt, and kill, your ladybugs

Ladybugs are awesome predators but… as most life on this beautiful planet, someone’s predator is another’s pray, so you’re going to have to be aware of your garden. For example, if you have an aphid infestation, you probably have some ants tending to them, and just like humans with their cattle, they will defend them by killing any aphid predator.

You might also have birds, spider, wasps or other predators that will simply hunt them and eat them up.. law of nature right.

When introducing them to your ecosystem you have to plan for this, so before purchasing take a look around, what type of wildlife you have, and if any may harm them. 
If that’s the case, either adapt your strategy, or purchase more to plan for some getting caught up in life events

Usual predators of ladybugs

  • Spiders
  • Birds
  • Wasps
  • Ants
  • Frogs
  • Dragonflies

 

How to naturally attract (and keep) ladybugs

The best way to attract ladybugs around, or keep the ones you are introducing, is to grow flowers that produce nectar and pollen that the female ladybugs can eat.
This is specifically efficient, and important, in late spring before the insects they feed on become abundant as they are looking for other sources of nutrients.

If you are able to attract them at that point they will most likely lay their eggs which will provide you a whole generation of larvae that will defend your babies.

You must also avoid using broad spectrum insecticides on your terrain, it will keep them away and/or kill the ones you have been able to attract.

What to be careful for when purchasing ladybugs

As these babies are well known as an organic pest control method, there are a couple things to be careful for when you purchase your ladybugs:

  • What are the conditions : Are the ladybugs brought up in a lab or are they removed from the wild? The latter is a huge issue for local environnements as some companies will go into the wild are catch as many ladybugs as they can, totally disrupting ecosystems and creating huge pest issues.
    Make sure you purchase lab-grown ladybugs
  • Will the specie of ladybug be effective? 
    As there are over 5000 different species of ladybugs what they can pray on will vary, some can even be dangerous for your plants.
    If you’re dealing with aphids you’re pretty safe, it’s a shared meal within the ladybug family. Apart from that you’re going to have to make sure.

We wish we could share a good provider but this depends so much on location that we are unable to do so…

Alright that’s all for this one folks! If you want to share your experience, or have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch by email or on Instagram 🙂

Until next time,
be safe and grow easy

Couple words about the grower

This article was written by Plant Lover, Free the Tree's founder and a passionate grower of Cannabis, as well as all other plants.
Mostly from the city, I work on my computer all day so about 4 years ago, on my off time, I started growing to have some more green in my life.

I never imagined I would fall in love with botany and discover so much about this plant. Since then I keep learning everyday, meeting new awesome people of our community and grow constantly

You can always get in touch with me on our Instagram!

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