Ants, either you love them or hate them – or both. A few of them is not a bad thing. They aerate the soil, enabling more access to oxygen. Moreover, they feed on dead insects, leaving nutrient byproducts. A large number, however, can wreak havoc. And if that is the case, you better find ways to get rid of them once and for all to keep your marijuana plants healthy and safe.
Why Should Ants Be Trouble for Marijuana Plants?
A large number of ants can build nests in the soil. Consequently, it could hinder the uptake or damage the roots, resulting in stunted growth. You certainly do not want that to happen. Not only are the buds underdeveloped, but they also would not be potent.
Ants are also the best friends of aphids and “sort of” co-existing in a symbiotic relationship. Aphids feed on plant sap through the leaves and leave sugar byproduct called Honeydew. Ants, of course, are naturally attracted to honeydew. For that reason, they would protect the aphids from their natural predators, such as ladybugs.
Usually, an unusual number of ants indicate the presence of the notoriously annoying, potentially destructive aphids. On the one hand, ants also feed on aphids. However, aphids can give birth to 12 live offspring per day. If the population of this insect gets out of hand, then your marijuana plants are in trouble.
In the worst-case scenario, the ants would have created nests in the substrate, choking the roots. Above the ground, aphids will be draining the plants of nutrients. There is only one outcome, in this case – the catastrophic death of the plants.
By the way, aphids are not the only pests that ants may bring to the garden. It could also be mealybugs and other sap-sucking insects.
How Do You Get Rid of Ants If There Are Too Many of Them?
You should steer clear of chemicals. They can leave residues in the buds that, even after washing, drying, and curing, would still find its way into the smoke and us. These are potentially hazardous compounds that may pose long term health risks.
Chemical pesticides also make their way to the ground, if outdoors. Even if you are growing indoors using pots, they might be harmful to beneficial microbes. What happens with this approach is that you may gain in the short term – killing ants – but end up destroying the soil ecosystem.
Use Organic Solutions
If the ants have not proliferated, you are in luck, cinnamon and ants do not mix. You can quickly solve the problem by dumping a tablespoon of powdered cinnamon on the spot where they are building a nest. The smell of cinnamon should drive the ants away.
If that is not enough, here’s what you can do.
Prepare the usual amount of water you would use for watering. Dissolve a few tablespoons of powdered cinnamon, and pour on the topsoil. With the intense flavors seeping deep into the soil, your problem with ants is solved this time.
The oil extracted from neem trees contains an organic compound called azadirachtin. This insecticidal ingredient is what makes neem oil a widely-used prevention and treatment of pest infestations. By using neem oil, cannabis plants don’t run the risk of being harmed in any way, neither do people as it is completely natural and not harmful.
You can prepare a foliar spray by mixing 1 teaspoon of cold-pressed neem oil into 1 liter of water. And because oil and water do not mix, you need to add 5 drops of dish soap (as a surfactant). Using warm water makes mixing quicker, but you need to let it cool off before applying it to the marijuana plants.
How to Use Neem Oil on Cannabis?
You can use neem foliar spray in two ways. As a preventive measure, spray the plants once a week. In the case of ant infestation, including other pests such as whiteflies, fungus gnats, spider mites, and nematodes, it is an effective treatment. Ideally, you should use a sprayer that produces a fine mist. Target the ants, and the neem oil will cause serious respiratory issues. Either they die, or they flee.
Neem oil does not harm beneficial organisms such as earthworms, bees, and ladybugs. When it seeps into the substrate, the plants benefit as that helps them avoid root rot. However, when it comes to using neem oil during flowering, this is not recommended, you should avoid spraying on the buds of flowering plants to not contaminate their smell and taste.
The use of Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is another way of containing ants. DE, also referred to as diatomite, is a siliceous rock. It originated from fossilized remains of small creatures with hard shells, and can quickly crumble. Apart from industrial applications, DE is also a mechanical insecticide – deadly to the pests, but safe for the plants.
DE has an abrasive surface. Once applied on the topsoil, any insects that pass through, including ants, are in for a rude awakening. Its sharp surface can scrape the exoskeleton of insects. DE also has high porosity and can absorb vital insect fluids. Unlike chemicals that insects could develop a resistance to, there is no avoiding DE. Such a harsh environment should deter ants.
Additionally, using DE also provides other benefits. For one, it improves soil moisture retention and increases oxygen levels. Handling it is another matter as it can cause skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritation. Use protective gear and be careful to avoid any complications.
Can Natural Treatments Effectively Eliminate Ants?
Let’s put it this way. Even if chemical solutions are quick and convenient, you should still not use them. They may be safe for the plants (as claimed by the manufacturers) but are harmful to the environment and humans. Natural treatments, as you see, are not only viable in warding off or killing ants, but they are also easy to prepare and apply.
You can never go wrong with natural treatments. When applied correctly, these solutions do not leave any toxic residue that humans would later absorb. Apart from safety, they also do not affect the taste and smell of the buds. In other words, what you harvest would be dried marijuana flowers at their purest and cleanest.