Cannabis, like any other plant, benefits from the microbiome of insects and living things in the ground and flying about. However, not all insects and crawling things are beneficial for your cannabis. Caterpillars are among them. These crawling pests will gnaw on your cannabis like termites or woodpeckers. They may not kill the plant but they will surely interrupt or halt its growth spur.
While it’s a good idea to grow cannabis outside because of the sun, space, and the biodiversity, the presence of pests is a risk you have to consider. Caterpillars aren’t as damaging as aphids, spider mites, or whiteflies, indeed. However, they do some damage by themselves.
Caterpillars are larval moths and butterflies. Most are herbivorous, while a few varieties are carnivorous. Each caterpillar has five legs, twelve eyes, and they’re generally easy to identify. They’re also big enough to be seen with the naked eye.
Do caterpillars kill cannabis plants?
Cannabis growers don’t need to worry that much if they see one or two caterpillars crawling around. Those aren’t especially dangerous, though they can leave holes in your cannabis leaves. However, if a caterpillar infestation occurs, then you’ve got a real problem on your hands. They can kill your cannabis plants for good if you don’t do something about it.
Certain species of caterpillars prefer eating the stem, which would greatly damage the plant. Generally, you can spot caterpillar activity by the following signs:
- Holes in cannabis leaves – these holes are irregular, both small and large.
- Damage to the plant stem – some caterpillar species like to feast on the stem of the cannabis plant, and they penetrate through the tissue until they reach the insides of the plant.
- Yellowed leaves – if the plant stem is damaged, then the cannabis plant won’t receive as much nutrition and water. If you see yellowed leaves, look below them for any signs of caterpillar activities.
- Damaged flowers – unfortunately, caterpillars don’t know that cannabis flowers can be smoked. They’ll directly eat them. The phytochemicals inside the buds are delicious to them.
- Stagnating flower – your cannabis plant will stop growing in size. Moreover, the yields will also be much lower than they’d be without caterpillars stunting their growth.
Now that you know how to spot caterpillars, it’s time to learn how to remove them from your garden! You can do so by manually removing each caterpillar you see and moving the away from your garden.
If you don’t have the time to hunt after caterpillars, why not get some hunters to do the job for you? Nature’s food chain tells you all you need to know. Get some parasitic or praying mantises in your garden, and they’ll dispose of any stray caterpillar. Praying mantises are extremely able hunters who stalk unseen, waiting for the next prey to unwittingly fall into their trap.
Alternatively, you can use a bacterial spray to poison and kill off your caterpillars. Moreover, these sprays won’t harm your cannabis plants. However, you shouldn’t use these sprays close to the flowering period.
Is there a way to prevent caterpillar infestations?
Like with any other insects, caterpillars have their own natural predator in the wilds. Preventing an infestation is much more efficient than getting rid of it once you notice it. In this sense, you can use one of the three ways below to prevent caterpillar infestations:
- Neem oil – the best natural pesticide that you’ll ever use, neem oil contains specific phytochemicals that keep insects away. Especially harmful insects that like to chew on cannabis plants
- Isolate your cannabis plants with improvised fences or fabrics! This way, the caterpillars won’t be able to reach the plants.
- Use predatory insects to keep harmful caterpillars away. This will greatly minimize the risk of harmful insects coming and disturbing your cannabis plants.
One thing is clear by now – there are plenty of ways to get rid of caterpillars but also keep them at a distance. We recommend trying to keep them away because, at some point, they will turn into butterflies which will start pollinating your garden. They become beneficial insects after they transform, so don’t kill them off if you can
Of course, the health of your cannabis plants is still the most important thing. If there’s nothing else you can do, go ahead and bring some predatory insects in your garden or use a bacterial spray to kill the caterpillars. You have nothing to lose by being preventative and protecting your cannabis plants from a potential caterpillar infestation!