Monday, January 31, 2022

January Fungi, Florida Hemp Cultivation Integrated Pest Management

 Fungi play an important part in our integrated pest management program. Tracking fungi appearance and location is an important part of the organic matrix at Arendell Hill. January fungi under live oaks, coral fungi, Ramaria sp. considering R. formosa. Leon County

Tracking fungi across Hemp Cultivation area helps us understand the role fungi play in pest control 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Organic Hemp Cultivation, Pests in the Leaf Litter

 Caterpillars, when their population numbers grow unchecked, can devastate a hemp or cannabis crop in a matter of hours.

Organic Hemp Cultivation Pest Control, Managing Eastern Tent Caterpillar Web Masses

Last year there was a significant population bloom of the Eastern Tent Caterpillars, Malacosoma americanum in east Leon County.  The thick, web masses began to appear during spring and continued to grow in size through summer into autumn, finally falling to the ground with winter winds and rainstorms.

Here across Arendell Hill we counted thousands of the Eastern Tent Caterpillars over the course of the growing season.  They would crawl down from the safety of their web nests, across the ground and find any number of plants, including trees, to feed on, devouring blossoms, buds and leaves alike.

Our Myers lemons were hit especially hard from hungry caterpillar appetites.

Arendell Hill Nursery was not the only place infested with an over-population of the M. americanum, I encountered significant numbers of these caterpillars all across the city.  Park benches placed around our local library green space were often covered in masses of M. americanum.

As autumn leaves fall, so often do Eastern Tent Caterpillar eggs.  Their eggs are usually laid en masse around twigs, at the base of leaves. Winter storms often blow these egg masses to the ground where they become mixed with leaf litter and await warmer weather before hatching.

An important part of any organic based integrated pest management program is prevention.  One way to control on-site Eastern Tent Caterpillar populations is through daily ground surveillance.  Make it a habit to be on the lookout for fallen egg or web masses.  When you come across the eggs or webs on the ground, pick them up, place in a trash bag, tie securely then drop the bag into the garbage can for landfill destination pick up.

Chances are the web masses may not actually contain eggs but chances are also they may.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar egg and web masses blend in well with fallen leaf litter.  With a little practice one can soon find these well camouflaged potential future pest masses and begin disposing of in a convenient refuse container.

Much of the time the most successful organic pest control practices spring forth from common sense practices and an understanding of pest insect and bug life cycles.

Controlling Eastern Tent Caterpillars before they hatch is much easier than battling hoards of hungry pests. 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Leaf Footed Bugs, Friend or Foe to Organic Hemp Cultivation?

Leaf footed bugs, Leptoglossus spp., are larger size, primarily vegetarian insects, that feed on seeds, vegetables, plant matter and fruit with their cutting and sucking proboscis-like mouth.

Adult leaf footed bug, Leptoglossus spp. on a pine

Named for their leaf-like feet appendages, Leaf footed bugs are polyphagous and will feed on hemp plants, tomatoes, fruit, squashes and other garden crops when available.  During months when crops are not readily available they will feed on plants and seeds, seeking out 'weedy' areas across the hemp cultivation site. These insects may be often seen on hemp and cannabis plant stems, buds and leaves.

Leaf footed bugs can damage hemp and vegetable crops

Adult leaf footed bugs can fly long distances.  I usually see them hiding, over-wintering, in wood piles during cooler months.  They lay their eggs during spring and summer and may produce several generations in a year.

Birds, spiders and predatory wasps, possibly the sand wasp, are all natural enemies of leaf footed bugs and help keep their population numbers managed.

Though not the worst pest insect to the organic hemp or vegetable grower, they can inflict damage to both plant and flower.  In a well balanced horticultural ecosystem they can provide forage to other insects and wildlife and as such provide a certain level of food chain importance.

Certain species of thistles seem to attract leaf footed bugs as well as citrus.  Thistles are also quite beneficial in their supporting relationship to useful pollinators, birds and other natural pest predators. Native plant species such as milkweeds and mints are an important tool as they attract leaf footed bug enemies, such as predatory wasps.

A organic based integrated pest management approach to managing leaf footed bugs on the hemp farm should include;

  • native plants that attract predatory wasps
  • plenty of bird feeding opportunities
  • removal of unnecessary wood and debris piles
  • spider habitat
  • sighting notations in daily grow journal.

As long as the leaf footed bug population numbers are not out of control, their occasional presence should not be a priority concern to the hemp grower.  They can be however, a dynamic variable in the hemp garden's ecosystematic matrix and as such their presence should be recognized by the grower in the daily journal.


Saturday, January 1, 2022

Assassin Bugs, An Organic Hemp Cultivator's Helper

 Assassin bugs are a great pest control partner to have when growing hemp organically.  

Milkweed assassin bug, Zelus longipes, is an important part of an organic hemp pest management program

Members of the Reduviidae insect family, assassin bugs are the perfect hemp (or for that matter any organically grown garden plant) pest predator. They inject a digestive secretion into their prey and then suck out their prey's body fluids through a straw-like snout.  Assassin bugs favorite hunt includes; aphids, beetles, caterpillars, leafhoppers and even bees and flies.

Included with the Assassin bugs in the Reduviidae family are the closely related ambush bugs (subfamily Phymatinae), wheel bugs (Harpactorinae) and kissing bugs (Triatoma spp.).  Some Reduviidae can and will bite humans.  As with any insect bite,  a bite from these insects may be painful and proper first aid should be administered.

Foraging across the garden, the assassin bug's appetite is voracious and non-discriminatory, devouring both bad and beneficial insects.  But on the whole, the assassin bug is welcomed as an eat all pesty pest bug control partner. 

Milkweed assassin bug, Zelus longipes, foraging on Monarda punctata

The key to managing the assassin bug in the hemp growing area includes the use of nectar producing native plants the bug is naturally attracted to.  Strategic plantings of spotted bee balm, milkweed, goldenrod, mountain mint and other wildflowers can direct assassin bug's attention into those areas needing urgent pest control attention.

There are about one hundred fifty species of assassin bugs.  One of the most common assassin bugs seen in the garden is the Milkweed assassin bug, Zelus longipes.  

Milkweed assassin bug, Zelus longipes, have a never ending appetite for hemp cultivation pests

 The photos above are of a Milkweed assassin bug foraging across one of Arendell Hill's spotted bee balm, Monarda punctata, plants.

Though assassin bugs may look wicked, they can help the organic hemp grower keep pest insects to a minimum.

The native plants mentioned are known to attract assassin bugs looking for high-energy packed nectar.  Organic hemp integrated pest management will always use assassin bug attracting native plants around growing areas, either as permanent plantings or in movable growing containers for spot pest control.

The organic hemp nursery is a dynamic site, rich in complex ecosystematic matrices.  The relationships between native wildflowers, the Reduviidae family of insects and the hemp farm are important for the grower to understand.

Welcoming these colorful but alien looking bugs is another key component in a successful organic hemp growing program.