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Leafhoppers on Cannabis Plants

Leafhoppers

Leafhoppers are little, attractive insects that dwell and eat on cannabis plants. There are around 20,000 different types of leafhoppers. The term “leafhopper” refers to any member of the Cicadellidae family. Although they seem quite different in certain ways, most leafhopper species have characteristics that make them reasonably straightforward to recognize. Furthermore, they feed by sucking the sap from leaves and move about using two long back legs that may be utilized for jumping – or hopping. Leafhoppers begin as nymphs and then undergo a partial metamorphosis to become adult leafhoppers. Here is all you need to know about leafhoppers on your cannabis plants.

The Dangers of Leafhopper Infestation

Leaf hoppers are sap-sucking pests that generate various problems for the cannabis plant. Growers can distinguish their damage by observing light-colored speckling on leaves, resulting from sucking sap and fluids from the plant tissue. If left unchecked, this delayed feeding gradually reduces the plant’s vitality, causing brown leaves. Leafhopper damage is rarely severe enough to harm adult plants seriously; however, these insects’ feeding can impede or distort young weed plants or new growth.

Furthermore, their poisonous saliva discolors the leaves, making them seem stippled, pale, or brown. Diseased shoots curl and die, while diseased leaf tips turn a diamond pattern of yellow. Leafhoppers also spread germs that cause viral illnesses and phytoplasmas. Some species exude honeydew on their leaf, promoting sooty mold establishment. As a result, the photosynthetic area is diminished.

Identifying Leafhoppers on Your Cannabis Plants

Leafhoppers have thin, wedge-shaped bodies that vary in color from 1/8 to 1/4 inch long. When disturbed, they move quickly, crawling sideways like a crab, leaping forward and backward, or hopping to another weed plant.

A single leafhopper on a leaf
a kind of homoptera insects leafhopper on green leaf in the wild

To identify leafhoppers, you should look for the following signs:

  1. V-shaped yellowing of leaves that may look like a nutrient deficiency. This characteristic is usually known as “hopper burn.”
  2. Leaf wilt.
  3. Leaf stippling.
  4. Yellowed areas may turn brown after continued feeding.
  5. Adults hopping away when you approach.
  6. Tips and buds curled over and wilting.
  7. Nymphs present on the undersides of leaves.

Honeydew is the most obvious evidence that leafhoppers are present. Honeydew is released after the insect consumes the plant, and this material is left on the leaves. Honeydew resembles little tar patches and will attract ants. Honeydew can also cause blackening of leaves due to the establishment of sooty mold. Since several other pests exude honeydew, you must inspect those visible to identify if they are leafhoppers. In most cases, nymphs target the leaf’s underside. Look for leafhopper damage, such as small black excrement stains and molting skins.

Effective Strategies for Preventing Leafhopper Infestation

Leafhoppers can be difficult to control due to their ability to breed rapidly and their resistance to many common insecticides. Here are some effective ways to prevent leafhopper insects:

  1. Do not overwater plants.
  2. Remove weeds and debris from garden beds, especially at the end of the growing season.
  3. Plant your cannabis seeds early to avoid the peak leafhopper activity of late spring and early summer.
  4. Use garlic spray around your plants as a deterrent.
  5. Use a reflective mulch-like straw or lay aluminum foil on the soil’s surface.
  6. Spray your yard with Supreme IT every three months to keep the Leafhopper population in check, mostly in the Spring and Fall seasons when their appearance is more likely.
  7. Use beneficial insects (ladybugs, lacewings, or minute pirate bugs) to limit the number of leafhoppers.
  8. Use chemical products on the immature nymphs only.
  9. Remove infested plants.
  10. Use row coverings or shade cloth to prevent leafhopper access.

Natural Ways to Control Leafhoppers on Cannabis Plants

Biological control techniques, such as introducing natural predators or parasites of leafhoppers, can be used to manage infestations.

  1. Remove all garden trash and other debris after harvesting to avoid or limit overwintering areas.
  2. Cultivating companion crops such as marigolds and geraniums.
  3. Set up floating row covers to create a physical barrier between cannabis plants and leafhoppers.
  4. Use beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewing, and minute pirate bugs.
  5. Grow plant-resistant weed strains.

Chemical Control Options for Leafhoppers

Chemical control options for leafhoppers on cannabis plants include insecticides specifically labeled for use on cannabis. There are several chemical control options available for leafhoppers:

  1. Botanical Pyrethrins: These are natural plant extracts that can effectively control leafhoppers.
  2. Carbaryl (Sevin): This is a broad-spectrum insecticide that can be used against leafhoppers.
  3. Bifenthrin and Cyfluthrin: These are synthetic pyrethroids that can be used against leafhoppers.
  4. Bendiocarb (Turcam, Closure): This is a carbamate insecticide that can be used for leafhopper control.
  5. Disulfoton (Disyston): This organophosphate insecticide can be used against leafhoppers.
  6. Acephate (Orthene): This is another organophosphate insecticide that can be used for leafhopper control.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Techniques for Leafhopper Control

This is a cost-effective and ecologically friendly pest control strategy that employs various common-sense approaches. Here are some IPM techniques for leafhopper control:

  1. Biological control: Use of predators and parasites that naturally control leafhopper populations.
  2. Cultural control: Techniques such as crop rotation and tillage can help reduce pest populations. Good sanitation practices and planting pest-resistant crops can also be beneficial.
  3. Chemical control: As a last resort, contact insecticides may be used against leafhoppers, but control can be difficult because leafhoppers are very mobile.
  4. Physical barriers: Cover plants with a cloth to prevent egg laying, use reflective tape to deter birds, and install fences and walls to keep out larger pests.

Creating a Healthy Growing Environment to Deter Leafhoppers

Creating a healthy growing environment is a key strategy in deterring leafhoppers. Here are some tips:

  1. Remove garden trash and debris: Removing them soon after harvesting will help eliminate leafhopper overwintering areas.
  2. Use physical barriers: Having floating row coverings or shade cloth can assist in reducing the leafhopper’s access to your weed plants.
  3. Companion planting: Planting crops that deter leafhoppers, such as petunias or geraniums, can reduce their population in your garden.
  4. Neem oil: Spraying the affected cannabis plants with neem oil can effectively control leafhoppers. Using neem oil disrupts the insect’s hormone system, causing it to stop feeding and reproducing.

Companion Planting to Repel Leafhoppers

Growing some companion plants alongside your cannabis might provide a tempting alternative for hungry leafhoppers. Though this does not eliminate the possibility of them developing on your cannabis plants, it does reduce the likelihood of a serious leafhopper infestation.

Using Physical Barriers to Protect Your Cannabis Plants

Physical barriers can protect your weed plants from pests like leafhoppers and other threats. Here are some techniques you can consider using:

  1. Netting or fine mesh: This can prevent pests from reaching your plants while still allowing sunlight and rain to get through.
  2. Cardboard collars: These can be placed around the base of your plants to deter pests that crawl along the ground.
  3. Row covers or cloches: These can provide a physical barrier against pests and offer protection against harsh weather.
  4. Reflective mulches: These can deter certain pests that are attracted to the color of your plants.
  5. Landscape fabric: This can suppress weeds around your plants, reducing resource competition.

The Importance of Regular Plant Inspections

Regular monitoring and early detection of leafhopper infestations are crucial for effectively controlling and preventing damage to cannabis plants. Regular plant inspections are crucial when dealing with leafhoppers in cannabis for several reasons:

  1. Early detection: Regular inspections can help detect leafhopper infestations early before they escalate into larger issues. This allows immediate action to be taken, reducing potential plant damage.
  2. Identifying damage signs: Regular inspections can help identify signs of leafhopper damage, such as stippling or tiny holes in the leaves and curled or distorted growth. This can provide early warning of a leafhopper problem.
  3. Monitoring population levels: Regular inspections can help monitor leafhopper population levels. This can provide valuable information on the timing of their activity and the effectiveness of control measures.
  4. Checking treatment effectiveness: Regular inspections can help assess their effectiveness if you have implemented control measures. This can inform adjustments to your pest management strategy.

Early Detection and Intervention: Dealing with Leafhoppers

The simplest way to avoid a leafhopper infestation is to detect them early. Leafhoppers suck sap fluid off weed leaves more frequently when the environment is dry since they grow thirsty. Therefore, this is the best time to check for any indicators. Inspect beneath weed leaves and all around the plants since they will try to hide from you, often gliding across the leaf to the other side where you can’t see it.

Utilizing Beneficial Insects to Combat Leafhopper Infestation

Not all bugs are detrimental to your weed garden. Some are enormous companions who may aid in crop protection. Ladybugs are one type of insect that you may release into your garden to combat a leafhopper problem. Ladybugs will gladly consume the little creatures as part of their regular diet. Unfortunately, ladybugs will most likely fly away in a day or two. Other beneficial insects you can use include lacewings and parasitic wasps.

Dos and Don’ts for Leafhopper Management

Managing leafhoppers effectively requires a careful balance of strategies. Here are some dos and don’ts for leafhopper management:

Dos:

  1. Regular inspections: Monitor your plants for signs of leafhoppers or damage caused by them.
  2. Use physical barriers: Use netting or fine mesh to protect your plants from leafhoppers.
  3. Use beneficial insects: You can get insects (ladybugs or lacewings) that feed on leafhoppers.
  4. Implement IPM: Use an Integrated Pest Management approach, combining cultural, biological, and chemical control methods.
  5. Maintain plant health: Healthy plants are more resilient to pests. Ensure your cannabis plants are correctly watered and fertilized.

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t ignore early signs: Take action immediately if you notice leafhoppers or signs of their damage.
  2. Don’t rely only on chemicals: While insecticides can be helpful, they should only be used as a last option due to their possible harm to beneficial insects and the environment.
  3. Don’t forget crop rotation: Planting the same crop in the same place year after year can increase pest problems, including leafhoppers.
  4. Don’t overwater or overfertilize: These practices can lead to lush growth that attracts leafhoppers.

Understanding the Life Cycle of Leafhoppers

Leaf hoppers develop through many nymphal stages before reaching maturity, resulting in partial metamorphosis. Females place their eggs in the veins of cannabis leaves or on any vulnerable plant tissue. On average, 100 eggs are laid daily, depending on the temperature. When inserted into tissue, eggs produce “pimple-like” lesions that are more apparent than insects. Hatching takes six to nine days and starts when temperatures reach a particular threshold, at which point wingless nymphs develop.

These nymphs go through five instars before reaching maturity. Except for the lack of wings, late instar nymphs imitate adults. Adults appear after 2-7 weeks and start feeding by piercing plant portions and sucking the sap. Leaf hoppers overwinter as eggs on twigs or as adults beneath the weed plant’s bark. It also takes roughly three weeks for an egg to develop into an adult. During the developing season, many overlapping cycles may be completed.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Leafhopper Control

When dealing with leafhopper control, it’s important to avoid certain common mistakes:

  1. Ignoring early signs: Leafhoppers can cause significant damage if left unchecked. Ignoring early signs of their presence can lead to larger infestations.
  2. Over-reliance on chemicals: While insecticides can be effective, they should not be the only control method. Chemical overuse can affect both beneficial insects and the environment.
  3. Over-fertilizing plants: Over-fertilization can lead to lush growth that attracts leafhoppers. It’s important to fertilize appropriately to maintain plant health without encouraging pests.
  4. Not removing infected plants: Cannabis plants showing indicators of leafhopper damage should be promptly eliminated and discarded to prevent further spread of the pests.

The Role of Proper Watering and Fertilization in Leafhopper Prevention

Proper watering and fertilization play a crucial role in preventing leafhopper infestations. Maintaining a healthy and lush cannabis plant will help deter leafhoppers. This can be achieved by proper fertilization and watering. Furthermore, proper fertilization provides the necessary nutrients for quick recovery and repair of damaged areas, preventing bare spots that can become prime locations for pest establishment.

Expert Tips for Long-Term Leafhopper Control

Here are some expert tips for long-term leafhopper control:

  1. Identification: It is essential to recognize how leafhoppers appear at different life cycle stages and to detect the damage they cause.
  2. Physical removal: Handpicking leafhoppers from the affected plants and removing them from the garden can help to reduce their numbers.
  3. Natural predators: Encouraging natural predators, including ladybugs, spiders, minute pirate bugs, and lacewings, to live in your grow area can help control leafhopper populations.
  4. Insecticidal soaps and neem oil: Spraying your cannabis plants using an organic insecticidal soap or neem oil spray can effectively eliminate both adult leafhoppers and nymphs.
  5. Remove affected cannabis plants: If a plant is heavily infested, removing and disposing of it might be best to prevent the leafhoppers from spreading to other plants.
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Ed Rushford

Ed Rushford’s impact on cannabis growing is undeniable. Though he tends to focus primarily on 2 areas, plant training techniques and dealing with disease, pests, and other problems, he has offered many insights into how cannabis plants live and grow. That’s not to say that Ed is unfamiliar with the complete life cycle of cannabis, from seed to harvest, but he uses his widespread knowledge to hone in on the minutia and niche areas of growing cannabis. Ed’s goal is to spread knowledge and allow for everyone to become better growers. About this Author

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