Almost nobody had heard of Aculops cannibicola until recently. Back in 2017, A. cannibicola, or the Hemp Russet Mite, suddenly appeared, causing a widespread outbreak that damaged both cannabis and hemp crops statewide. Farmers were desperate, trying all they could to save their plants. Most were facing catastrophic losses, with some about to discard entire grows. Some likened it to the plague.
Nothing farmers did worked. These mites appeared indestructible. Even worse, nobody knew he or she even had any bugs until it was too late. Cannabis plants were falling like dominoes. Weed delivery companies feared supplying demand. Fortunately, a few pioneering farmers decided to try a method used on other high-value crops to control pests: They introduced predatory mites to eat them.
Understanding Aculops cannibicola, or Hemp Russet Mites
You cannot see the Hemp Russet Mite. It is too small for the naked eye. Further, cannabis plants are their only hosts. They live nowhere else. These bugs attack all cannabis plants, including hemp and marijuana. What is more, they appear to have no interest in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the levels of which seem to make no difference at all in severity of infestation.
Nobody knows too much about Hemp Russet Mites, except that they are undeniably among the worst pests for cannabis cultivators. In severe attacks, whole harvests are lost. This is costly not only for farmers, but for the entire supply chain relying on bountiful crops. According to Purdue University, symptoms of Hemp Russet Mites in your cannabis plants include the following:
- Yellowing between leaf veins and on leaf edges.
- Dry, stunted, or wrinkled leaves.
- Upward curling leaves, called canoeing or tacoing.
- Prematurely drying flower pistols.
- A light, powdery brown dust.
Since the outbreak of 2017, cultivators have been studying Hemp Russet Mites. Learning them. Some tried using horticultural oils and micronized sulfur to keep them at bay. While somewhat effective, these methods have limitations and major pitfalls. Sulfur has a ‘rotten egg’ smell, which nobody wants on his or her buds. Further, while sulfur kills these mites, it does not kill all mites. This is quite limiting.
Understanding Predatory Mites
Instead of bad smells and half-effective pest control methods, farmers can think naturally. Galendromus occidentalis is a predatory mite, one crucial to any successful integrated pest management strategy. G. occidentalis, the Western Predatory Mite, has a voracious appetite and a particular taste for Hemp Russet Mites. Its other favorite meals include the Spotted Spider and the European Red Spider mites.
However, this bug is only effective when conditions are right for it. They thrive in high temperatures, over 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They also prefer low humidity, around 50 percent being ideal. Those growing outdoors in low-humidity settings are the most successful with Western Predatory Mites, but if you can control temperature and humidity indoors, then they will work well for your pest control too.
Hemp Russet Mites stand no chance against hungry Western Predatory Mites. This is true even in significant infestations, where outbreaks are severe. They are effective in all types of scenarios, although farmers might use different strategies for deployment according to their setup, whether indoors or outdoors. For example, large-scale farmers can employ drones to release predatory mites.
Some Risk, Of Course
Although Western Predatory Mites offer a good solution for controlling outbreaks of Hemp Russet Mites, they do pose some challenges that farmers must consider before releasing them into their crops. Firstly, predatory mites like G. occidentalis do not do well during flowering. Trichomes produced in the buds prove too sticky for them. This presents a problem if you have any around when plants are in bud.
Some experts suggest farmers commit either to using horticultural oils, and then making sure to cover plants in them completely, or to using predatory mites. However, when using bugs, farmers should commence with scouting aggressively before flowering. In this way, they can apply sulfur just once before sending plants to bud, and then waiting 24 hours before permitting anyone to reenter.
Farmers must scout often. By using magnifying glasses and even inspecting random leaves under the microscope, it is possible to scout successfully. Some farmers say that Western Predatory Mites can still control Hemp Russet Mites during flowering. In fact, some say they do so very well. However, the secret to their success appears to lie in their breeding. It is in how breeders raise them.
Predatory mites raised traditionally eat artificial foods. When released, they do not have a particularly high hunger for pests. When raised hungry and often unfed, these bugs grow stronger and more determined to work hard at their job, even during the flowering phase. Experts recommend releasing around 20,000 predatory mites per acre of plants. Such numbers work preventatively too.
Controlling the Environment
It is important for growers to keep their plants clean, particularly those growing indoors. Cleanliness is integral to controlling russet mites. Only buy clones from credible and reputable cultivators or plant your own seeds. If you choose to bring new plants into your grow space, then it is always wise to inspect them under a microscope first. Make sure they do not carry any pests with them.
When an outbreak indoors does occur, you might need to consider starting again. If leaves are tacoing or there is torsion, you know you have mites everywhere. They are in your plants, your soil, your fans, your vents, even in your clothes. Everywhere. In these cases, raising temperature for eight hours to 140 degrees, cleaning with bleach, and then raising temperature again might be the only way to kill them.
Marijuana Delivery Hollywood
Since cannabis delivery relies heavily on bumper cannabis harvests, consumers have a stake in the fight against Hemp Russet Mites. The entire cannabis economy requires growers succeed against this scourge. Fortunately, predatory mites, at least those grown the hungry way, offer a workable solution. The hungrier your bugs, the cleaner they will keep your plants of unwanted pests.