Cricket infestation has been a serious problem among cannabis cultivators for a long time. If left unmanaged, these notorious pests fond of cannabis plants can destroy the entire garden in a flash. It attacks the buds, leaves, and even the roots of the crop which ultimately leads to a diminished harvest. But just like every other garden pest, there are ways to get rid of it without harming the plants. They key is understanding these critters’ way of life to determine the most suitable method of elimination.
All About Crickets
Often heard at night or during awkward pauses, crickets are one of the most common insects in the world. This species is related to grasshoppers and locusts in the order Orthoptera.
Crickets are known to inhabit caves, fields, forests, and holes in the ground. Some people keep these creatures as pets, and in some cultures, it is even considered a delicacy or a sign of good luck. However, for plant cultivators, it is often considered as vermin that can cause severe damage to many types of crops including cannabis plants.
Crickets are characterized by a pair of long antennae called “feelers” which help locate food. These feelers curve backward and are often as long as the body. A cricket’s thorax measures 1 to 2 inches long and may appear to be green, red, brown, or yellow depending on the species. Its two hind legs are strikingly bigger than the other legs as it generates most of the cricket’s jumping power. These critters also feature a tympanum membrane found in its front legs which aids in hearing nearby prey or mating calls.
Although crickets have two pairs of membranous wings, these creatures do not fly. Instead, such structures are used by males to produce a “song” which serves as a means of communication with other members of the species. On the other hand, female crickets have an ovipositor – a thin tubular structure found at the end of the abdomen that is used for laying eggs. Meanwhile, younger crickets look like smaller versions of the adults but without the vestigial wings.
These nocturnal insects live anywhere between 30 to 90 days and undergo the process of molting as it matures. However, some species that live in the wild can survive for as long as a year. Mating season starts in late spring and lasts until early fall. The male cricket performs a special dance until the female responds and initiates the mating process. The female then lays up to 200 eggs in the soil or any damp areas. The eggs are then left to fend for themselves. In some species though, the mother will look after its young for a few days after hatching.
After a couple of weeks, the eggs would hatch and reveal young crickets called nymphs. These younglings resemble adult crickets but are smaller in size and do not have wings. It is during this stage that the cricket first sheds its exoskeleton. This process could take place for as many as ten times before entering adulthood.
Once the crickets have fully developed into adults, it spends the rest of its life eating and mating. Male crickets start courting fertile females whose job is to reproduce and search for suitable breeding areas.
Damage And Signs Of Infestation
Crickets are not considered particularly harmful to humans, but it can cause extensive damage to plants. While its mandibles are not strong enough to pierce a person’s skin, it can easily cut through leaves, stems, and roots. Hence, early detection of signs of an infestation is vital to avert full-blown and irreparable damage.
- Chirping Sounds. Perhaps the most apparent sign of cricket invasion is the chirping sound that can be heard at night. This sound is produced when a male cricket rubs its wings to call the attention of females. Upon hearing this telltale chime, it is best to scrutinize the plants and prepare for a way to exterminate the critters while the infestation is just starting.
- Holes In Leaves. Another sign that these pests have indeed infiltrated the garden is the presence of holes all over the plant leaves. Critters feed on cannabis plants of all stages – be it seedlings or adult plants. And since the roots and leaves are tender and easy to chew, these pests can quickly wipe out an entire garden if not mitigated early on.
- Holes In The Ground Or Mounds Of Soil. The underground-dwelling mole cricket tends to create hills and tunnels while moving through the soil. Aside from the possibility of damaging the roots of the plants in the process of digging, this also invites unwelcomed animals. When predators such as birds, skunks, and raccoons see these piles of dirt, it would mean that there are creatures underground that can be preyed upon. These animals would soon dig into the soil to hunt for crickets while the garden winds up getting destroyed.
How To Eliminate Crickets
The best way to prevent crickets from taking over the grow space is to look out for signs, hunt down the nest, and obliterate the new eggs before hatching. However, this is easier said than done. But with the aid of organic pesticides and biological control agents, it is not an impossible feat.
Dark, moist areas like patio corners and compost heaps are good places to start looking for eggs. Once the breeding area is found, the following products can be used to manage the cricket infestation and alleviate the damage it can cause.
1. Cricket Baits And Traps
Since crickets are nocturnal insects, it is best spotted after sunset. Luring it into a small area will make it easier to eradicate all at once. This could be done with the aid of baits and traps.
Among the most commonly used traps are those made of glue. These are inexpensive and readily available in most home improvement stores. Commercial cricket baits also come in powder and granular forms. Once these substances are ingested, it will poison the pests in no time. But for those who prefer non-chemical means of eliminating crickets, there are plenty of DIY baits and traps that could be done with ease.
Crickets are drawn to the smell of molasses. Hence, making it a popular ingredient for trapping these critters. And since it is an organic solution, this method does not entail risks for plants or humans.
- 1 cup of molasses
- 2 liters of water
- A container (bucket or jar)
- Mix the molasses and water. Fill up the container halfway with the viscous mixture.
- Put the container near the suspected camp of the pest. Leave the top open for the crickets to crawl in. Once it touches the sticky substance, the vermin will be trapped inside until it eventually drowns.
- Check the trap regularly to get rid of the trapped crickets. Ensure that the critters are dead before sealing it away in a plastic bag. Then, dispose of it far from the garden.
DIY Light Trap
Since crickets thrive in warm environments, these creatures are naturally attracted to light. Using this information as a guide, one can create a trap that will effectively lure the insects for easy disposal.
- Old crate or used box
- Small lamp
- Food scraps (fruit, vegetables, meat)
- Cutter or scissors
- Staple gun
- If using a box, cut a few holes on the sides. This step can be skipped if using crates as these materials already have built-in slits.
- Cut the screen about an inch bigger than the bottom of the box or crate. Then, attach it with a staple gun.
- Place a light source like a small lamp in the center of the box or crate. This will lure the crickets into entering the trap.
- Lay some food scraps such as vegetables and fruits around the light. This will serve as additional baits.
- Place the trap in a cricket-prone spot, turn on the light source, and leave the lid open.
- Check the trap before sunrise. The screen at the bottom of the box will have caught the crickets. Quickly close the lid and dispose of the captive insects. Ensure that the pests are dead.
Spinosad is an organic substance used to eliminate crickets and other insects without harming the plant. It was discovered as a result of the fermentation of the soil bacteria Saccharopolyspora spinosa. Once it comes in contact with the target pests, Spinosad attacks its nervous system through overstimulation. Consequently, the insect will get exhausted from hyperexcitation and stop eating. It would eventually die after a day or two.
This organic pesticide also comes in dust and pellet form which is best used for crawling cricket species. However, wiping out a nest of cricket eggs or nymphs is more easily done with the use of Spinosad spray.
- 4 tablespoons of Spinosad concentrate
- 1.4 liter (48 ounces) of water
- Spray bottle
- Protective gloves
- Pour the water inside the spray bottle. Afterward, add the spinosad concentrate.
- Firmly screw back the cover of the spray bottle. Shake the solution to blend the materials well.
- Spray generous amounts of the concoction in leaves, stems, and soil base of the cannabis plant. For best results, use the mixture within 24 hours of mixing it. It is also worth noting that it is most effective when administered later in the day as Spinosad degrades when exposed to sunlight.
3. Neem Oil
Like insecticidal soap, neem oil products are known to eliminate crickets and other small insects without harming plants, beneficial animals, and humans. This oil is produced by pressing the seeds of the tropical Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) to extract its natural insecticidal component, Azadirachtin. The extraction process could be through cold-pressing or solvent extraction. Among the two, pure cold-pressed oil is superior as it is not diluted with solvents.
In itself, neem oil is as potent as other pesticides. However, unlike other remedies, its effects are not as instantaneous. Upon ingestions of the Azadirachtin content, neem oil causes the insect’s hormones to stop working correctly. As a result, the afflicted creature eventually stops engaging in basic survival activities like feeding and mating. As the malnourished eggs fail to hatch and nymphs do not molt, the size of the colony slowly dwindles.
- Bucket or large basin for mixing
- 1 tsp of cold-pressed Neem oil
- 1/8 teaspoon of mild liquid soap or detergent
- 1 teaspoon of preferred essential oil
- 4 liters of water
- 1 spray bottle
- Pour warm water into the bucket, about 1/4 full. Ensure that the water is warm but not scalding. This allows the solution to remain in liquid form for a longer duration. It also allows for more efficient emulsification of the oil and water. Moreover, anything beyond 30°C to 40°C can reduce the beneficial compounds of the oil.
- Add the liquid soap or detergent. This will act as a surfactant. Mix the concoction thoroughly.
- Gradually add the cold-pressed neem oil and essential oils then mix thoroughly. Rosemary and peppermint are highly recommended as these oils are natural insect repellants. Incorporating it into the mix can boost the potency of the insecticidal spray.
- Pour the mixture in a spray bottle. Shake the contents rigorously before using it to ensure that the oil and water will not separate. For best results, use the spray within 8 hours of mixing it.
4. Insecticidal Soap
Another plant-friendly product for eliminating crickets is the insecticidal soap. It has been used to manage pest infestation for centuries owing to its safe and effective qualities. This product consists of salts and fatty acids combined with oil to create a formulation that harms only unwanted pests.
Insecticidal soap sprays kill crickets by washing away the cuticle that protects the surface of its body. After penetrating the critter’s cell membranes, it then kills the cells – leading to the pest’s death. This product is most effective on crickets during the nymph stage as the outer covering has not fully developed. It will still work on adult crickets, but it might require repeated applications for the soap to permeate the insect’s exoskeleton. But despite its toxicity to crickets, insecticidal soap does not pose detrimental effects to humans and other animals.
- 4 teaspoons of Pure-Castile liquid soap
- 1 cup of distilled water
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Spray bottle
- Mix the distilled water, Pure-Castile liquid soap, and vegetable oil in a spray bottle.
- Screw on the cover and shake vigorously until all the substances are well-incorporated.
- Spray the concoction on the cannabis plant and the soil base where the nest is suspected to be in.
- Repeat the procedure as often as necessary until all the cricket population has died down.
Pyrethrin is a natural pesticide extracted from the chrysanthemum flower. It contains six chemicals that are toxic to crickets and other insects. Hence, this organic substance is commonly used in pest control products.
When crickets come in contact with pyrethrin, the insect’s nervous system gets hyperexcited to the point of paralysis which eventually leads to death. This organic pesticide is lethal to pests but generally safe for humans. However, caution must still be observed as overexposure to this product as it can cause irritation or numbing of the skin and eyes. When inhaled, pyrethrin-based products can also trigger breathing difficulty and respiratory irritation. As such, it is recommended to always follow the prescribed application and formulation of these pesticides to get optimal results and avoid health risks.
6. Biological Control Agents
For decades, predatory insects have been used to manage pest populations and keep it within harmless levels. When crickets overbreed, human intervention might be required to introduce creatures that will antagonize it.
Biological control agents can be classified into pathogens, parasitoids, and predators. The following are examples of agents that have proven to be effective in regulating the presence of crickets in gardens and plant farms.
- Mole Cricket Nematode (Steinernema scapterisci). Mole crickets are destructive pests that inflict severe damage to vegetation. And since it lives underground, it creates a tunnel underground then attacks the roots of the plant. To address mole cricket infestation, introducing parasitic nematodes such as the Steinernema scapterisci is highly recommended. The life cycle of the Mole Cricket Nematode consists of three major stages: egg, multiple juvenile phases, and adult. On the third immature stage, these nematodes begin preying on mole crickets. It enters the body of the host and colonizes it. Upon reaching adulthood, the nematodes will then reproduce until the entire population eats away the cells and nutrients of the host. This eventually leads to the death of the mole cricket.
- Brazilian Red-Eyed Fly (Ormia depleta). The Brazilian Red-Eyed Fly is another useful biocontrol agent in mole cricket management. These flies must be introduced to the soil during its larval stage. In doing so, the larvae would start burrowing into the mole cricket’s body. As it develops inside the host, the fly drains the nutrients from the cricket’s body for sustenance until the host dies. It must be noted that these flies are sensitive to the cold weather and are dependent on honeydew sources for survival. Hence, introducing nectar-producing companion plants in the garden is a must. This also means that breeding these flies artificially can be costly and time-consuming, but it is still possible to establish stable populations when released in warmer regions.
- Larra Bicolor. A species of parasitic wasps from Bolivia. It thrives in tropical regions and is known to only leech off mole crickets. Female wasps eliminate mole cricket populations by invading its underground nest in hopes of capturing a host. It then immobilizes the prey by stinging it with venom then lays a single egg underneath its body. Once the temporary paralysis wears off, the cricket returns to its nest with the wasp egg attached to it until it hatches. During the larval stage, the wasp starts the destruction of its host by feeding on the cricket until it dies.
Keeping The Cannabis Garden Cricket-Free
Cricket infestation is nothing new to cannabis cultivation. Humankind has been dealing with this pest problem for decades. As such, a plethora of solutions – both organic and synthetic – has already been invented to counter its detrimental effects to the plants.
Traps and baits are ideal contraptions for small grow spaces as these are inexpensive and effortless to make. Moreover, the captured crickets can be used as fish bait or chicken feed. However, for larger areas with more advanced degrees of infestation, natural pesticides might be a better solution in terms of efficiency. Spinosad, pyrethrin, and neem oil are examples of these compounds. And although it is not organic per se, insecticidal soaps and sprays are also viable solutions. Another option is to introduce biological control agents that prey on crickets. These organisms enter the host’s system and feed off its nutrients and body cells until it dies.
Whichever method is used, it is essential to remember that when it comes to eliminating crickets in the cannabis garden, safety is just as important as efficacy. Hence, careful application of the pesticides is imperative. And as much as possible, it is preferable to opt for natural solutions as opposed to synthetic ones. This ensures that the garden will be cricket-free all while maintaining contaminant-free top-quality buds.