Pesticides & Pot

Smoke it up kids!



Yup, last year my home state legalized the use, sale, growing and distribution of marijuana.  Not just for medical purposes either.  Since then the state government has been working to figure out the best regulations to have in place and standards to keep the product safely managed.  This is going to be quite a money maker for Washington…I hope Colorado finally gets their butts moving.

Recently the WA Department of Agriculture released a list of 200 pesticides that can be used on marijuana plants.  The thing is, since this plant has been illegal for the last thirty-fourty years there are not EPA standards regarding the use of pesticides on this plant.  I’ve tried a few quick searches online to get a hold of this list but so far I haven’t found it.  I could just not be looking hard enough.  According to KUOW, a local NPR/PRI station in western Washington, this list has earned “praise” for its comprehensiveness.  I’m looking forward to seeing this list.

Aside from possible mold problems or attacks from overeager cats, there are some legitimate concerns in regard to pests of this plant.  According to pests include: Mealybugs, Aphids, Spider Mites, Whiteflies, Thrips, Beetles, Caterpillars and a few others.  Basically, your pest concerns are going to be consistent with most other plants grown in similar conditions.  Growing in a greenhouse type environment?  Be ready for mealybuggs, whiteflies, thrips and especially spider mites.  Be ready for spider mites wherever you are.  Those suckers are just, well, suckers.  Some good recommendations are to encourage natural enemies (lacewings and lady beetles) to feed on your pests.  Lacewings are especially good at this.  Some of the other recommendations are maybe not so useful.  Grinding up your pests and then spraying them on the plants to serve as a sort of warning to other pests?  Why not just pee on the plant and call it good?  And the bleach-water solution just sounds like a bad idea.  But hey, feel free to smoke that bleachy-leaf bro.*

When I see the list I’ll update you on what I think.  I am particularly interested in what they will recommend for organic treatment methods.  And, keep in mind none of these are official recommendations.  It’s just a list of 200+ things you can use.  I know many who are on the everything-has-to-be-organic-raised-by-virgin-monks kick who would happily smoke a bowl.  I wonder if they will be just as picky with their pot as they are with their tomato choices?  There will very likely be organic and low-impact methods of dealing with pests and if you have low pest levels it probably won’t be that much of an issue anyway.  IPM (Integrated Pest Management) tactics are best.  Cultural and other control and treatment methods combined are the best paths to any treating any pest problem.

Just to be smart, ALL of you, if you’re using any pesticide be sure you read the labels FIRST!  If it says it’s good for grubs but you have aphids, don’t use the bloody stuff.  And, as always, if your plant is outdoors and flowering, be aware that it is likely attracting pollinators.  Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are insects and as such, can be susceptible to insecticides.


*Sarcasm does not act as an actual endorsement for smoking bleach drenched plants of any kind. Do not sue me…my cats need to eat.


They’re Baaaaaaaacccckkkk. The Japanese Beetles Return for the Season!

Yup, that’s right.  These adorable, shiny (OMG so Shiny!) beetles have started to return.  Even though they may be cute they can be highly destructive.  The Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica: Scarabaeidae: Coleoptera) are, as you might guess, a non-native species of beetle which made its way here a number of years ago and easily found a home in our turfgrass and other plants.

Japanese Beetle adults kicking back on my tomato plants.
Japanese Beetle adults kicking back on my tomato plants.
Japanese beetle getting fancy with his legs on my tomatoes. Careful there mister!
Japanese Beetle larvae “grub” From Wikipedia

Their larvae often know as “grubs” (pictured below) spend their time in grass and can be responsible for some pretty serious damage to turfgrass stands; home lawns, sporting fields, etc.   They are also known to feed on some ornamental tree and shrubs.  These areas can be managed a variety of ways from planting more resistant turfgrass and plant varieties, to the use of products like synthetic pesticides or biological control methods, most notably milky spore disease.  Left unattended, they can eventually cause major damage to the grass by chewing through the roots.  And it’s not just the damage that they themselves do that you need to worry about.  You also have to worry about raccoons and skunks coming into your yard and pulling up the grass to get at those squishy, tasty grubs!  Remember Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King!  They weren’t joking.

Timon with a tasty morsel. I think that would most likely be a caterpillar but it’s hard to tell with the way it’s drawn. Could just be a slug with a headcapsule…which isn’t really a thing.

These guys overwinter in the larval stage and the adults start to emerge right about now (June – July).  The adults damage plants in a very different yet just as important way.  I’ve been finding them on my tomato plants but this isn’t one of their typical plants they go for.  To be fair, I haven’t seen them feeding so it is possible I’m just noticing recently emerged adults just hanging out on my plants waiting to fly to bigger and more tasty pastures.  The adults are skeletonizers and will eat the “meaty” bits of the plant leaves, leaving the veins intact.  They are known to happily feed on over 400 species of broad leaf plants so take your pick.  A big one that they like are grapes and this is another thing that makes them a huge potential pest.  Imagine these guys in Wine Country!?!  Please, say it ain’t so!  Not my wine!  Infested strips of grass near a winery could be potentially devastating if left uncontrolled.

So how do we deal with these guys?  Well, I keep a nice plastic container in my freezer for all of the adults I find and I just throw them in there.  This is by no means an effective method of control but it’s a great method for just collecting some beetles.  There are a couple of traps that you can buy which use pheromones to attract the beetles to the bag where they fall in and die.  The problem with this is that they ATTRACT the beetles to the general region which can actually result in a bigger problem overall.  I actually want to get one of these bags so I can snag a whole bunch of bugs, but then I will have to worry about treating my lawn somehow…I wonder if I can get my landlord to pay for that???

Bag-a-Bug. Only really effective if you want to bring more Japanese beetles onto your property.

Other, more successful control methods are chemical treatments formulated specifically for “white grubs”.  “Grubs” is a term generally reserved for the larvae of scarab beetles which also includes Masked/European Chafers as well as the June beetles.  They all will survive in the turf during their larval stages but as you might imagine, will have different points of high susceptibility to treatment.  If you know you have mostly JB’s then make your application according to their life cycle.  The latter instars (juvenile stage) and adults are the least susceptible to pesticide products (synthetic and organic) as they are a bit more hardy by that time.  The best time to treat is when the larvae are still in their first couple of instars.  In Ohio, this means late August to early September at the latest.  As many as 95% of the eggs will be laid by mid August here.  By early fall when the weather starts to cool the grubs will crawl a bit deeper into the soil and begin their hibernation state and thus no longer be susceptible to treatments.

Japanese Beetle life cycle in Ohio. Remember to make your treatments when they are most vulnerable, in those early instar stages.

If you’re like me and you want to do your home gardening a little more on the “green” side when possible there is some good news and some bad news with regard to grubs.  The good news is there are some parasitic wasps (Tiphia popilliavora and T. vernalis) which are fairly well established in the Eastern states and will parasitize the larvae.  The bad news…they aren’t really effective at controlling the beetles in this area.  They are more successful in the southern states though.  There is also a disease called Milky Spore Disease (Bacillus popilliae) which is thought by some to be useful but depending upon your region it may or may not be.  The problem here is that this disease is already present in much of the natural habitat of these beetles and therefore populations (at least here in Ohio and nearby) have already been exposed to this and similar diseases.  By introducing the milky spore to an area where it is already present you’re not going to see much success as they have already been exposed.  In the areas where it has been effective, it can take a few years (2-3) for the spore count to build up to an affective level.  Don’t use any insecticides against the grubs during that time as the grubs are needed for completing the bacterium cycle.

Other than habitat modification (slit-seeding and planting resistant grasses and ornamentals) synthetic pesticide treatments are going to be your best bet.  I can’t recommend one particular product over others but by contacting your local Entomology Extension office they can give you the heads up on which products are best.

Hope that helps some of you.  Until next time! Hakuna Matatta!

Bit of an Update on Fleas

While at the vet today with my cat it seems that I am not the only one experiencing flea problems this year.  Here in the midwest we seem to be having quite a bad year for fleas.  Prior to my move this summer I had not had a problem but, alas, I do now.  I returned to my tried and true Frontline (active ingredients: fipronil and S-methoprene) but the fleas are still hanging out.  This could be due to a few things; I have not gotten rid of the resident flea population is the most likely.  Another possibility is that the fleas have developed resistance to these pesticides.  Fipronil is more of a broad use insecticide and S-methoprene is growth regulator which disrupts the growth of egg and juvenile fleas.  Odds are there is still a population of fleas somewhere in my household.  Maybe in the rug or down in the basement.  People often jump to the conclusion that pests simply become resistant and that’s why a product doesn’t work.  While this does happen it is not as common as one might think; but when it does it can be devastating.

So what will I do? My vet showed me this new flea application product called Vectra which contains dinotefuran and pyriproxyfen.  Dinotefuran is a common insecticide with demonstrated results treating other types of pest problems.  Pyriproxyfen is another type of insect growth regulator.  So what would be the point of switching if they are both essentially the same thing?  One of the key components of any integrated pest management program (IPM) is do utilize a variety of treatments from cultural, mechanical as well as chemical.  By keeping up with my cleaning and doing a thorough deep cleaning in addition to chemical treatment, perhaps alternating the type from time to time will provide the best control.

Please, keep in mind, if you try out this Vectra product, do NOT use the dog variety on your cat!  The canine variety contains permethrin which has been demonstrated to cause toxic effects in cats.  ONLY use the CAT type on your CAT!  This applies to all of these products but I just want to be clear.  Always read and follow instructions on the label.

Biology, Treatment and Control of Flea Infestations

The above paper is potentially a heavy read for some but very informative.  If you’re not up for reading all 28 pages, here is a summary of the findings.

EPA Flea Control Recommendations

One study I found seems to suggest that dinotefuran does a better job than imidacloprid as a topical insecticide on cats.  A 2009 study indicates that imidacloprid provided better control than fipronil-s-methoprene.

I realize I have been rather lax with my postings for quite some time.  Since I’m coming upon the time when I need to be writing my thesis I shall naturally be avoiding that completely and most likely posting here more often.  So check back frequently for random insect and science related musings!  Until my next post, here are some nifty tidbits about fleas and how to deal with them.

Oh Fleas….mother fraking fleas.  My cats have them now.  It wasn’t an issue at my last few apartments but the new duplex seems to provide them a nice happy home.  Well, I like this place so why not the fleas,  right?  So what should I do?  What would you do?  What would Jesus do?

Well, I don’t know about Mr. Christ or you, but as an Entomology nerd and certified Crazy Cat Lady I set out to figure this out and by golly I did!  Frontline or Advantage is essential.  Fipronil (Frontline) and Imidacloprid (Advantage) work the best.  I personally use Frontline. Do not use any of those HARTZ things, be them the goops (Science Jargon!) or collars.  Those products are ineffective and have been linked to pet deaths and illnesses.  Yes, all products have been demonstrated to be linked to illness and deaths and this typically results in user error and stupidity.  (Lots of fleas on your cat does not mean you need need to use two, three or five treatments at once!  If you are one of those people please stop breeding.)

Ticks to be aware of. Lonestar and Black Legged Ticks are of particular concern.

**Depending upon where you live and if disease vectoring ticks are present should influence your decision on these two products.  If Black Legged Ticks are present then you will probably want to use one that effects ticks as well as fleas.**

Flea Head
Isn’t it cute!!! It must die!

I got a bit side tracked…Frontline or Advantage…yes.  There is also a pill that seems to work well.  That is step one!  Step, two…Clean Your Home!  Vacuum every carpeted and upholstered surface thoroughly.  Then do it again.  Then do it again.  If you have a canister vacuum be sure to dump it regularly.  If you have a vacuum with a bag you will need to throw away the bag between each vacuuming.  Have rugs?  Vacuum those suckers than put them outside where they can have sun exposure (if possible) but mostly so they can freeze the fleas (please note that freezing does nothing to bed bugs so do not think you can do this for them).  Sweep, dust, sterilize when able and scrub surfaces.

Step 3.  If needed here is where your chemical treatment comes in.  Flea & Bug Bombs are NOT effective at managing fleas.  We encounter the same problem when using these bombs for fleas as we do with bed bugs. They chemical works great if it gets directly on the insect but if you have a home with harborages (like say, carpet, cupboards, tables, or things with stuff) then the fleas, bed bugs ,etc will have a place to hide and be protected from the chemical.  Sure, some will bite the dust (or spray as it were) but not all and that’s what we’re going for here.

When choosing a chemical to treat your home remember this little mnemonic:

Pyrethrins: Pie is good!

Permethrin: Permanently kills your cat.  😦

Remember that Pyerethrins are more of a knockdown treatment rather than a permanent solution.  Utilize an IMP (Integrated Pest Management) approach when using it.  In other words, integrate things like cleaning your home and treating your cat/dog into the chemical treatment of your home as well.


Step 1) Treat your pet appropriately!

Step 2) Clean your home already!

Step 3) Chemical treatment of your home and surroundings if necessary.

For more information about flea control check out this great site: FLEA CONTROL

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