The Most Challenging Pests

Special Report - 2022 State of the Pest Control Market Report | Pest Pressures and Financial Impacts

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June 2, 2022

Growers who’ve been in the cannabis cultivation industry for a while have come to know that the pests that come up most often across the industry—from outdoor and greenhouse operations to indoor grows—can be the most difficult to control. Results of this 2022 “State of the Pest Control Market Report” research reinforced that notion.

Among growers who’ve experienced pest issues in their grow in the past 12 months, “aphids” (39%) and “spider mites” (39%) were tied for the most often cited pest. But following close behind were “thrips” (34%) and “fungus gnats” (32%), both noted as creating problems for about one-third of all research participants. Only 12% of participants in this study noted that their growing operations had not experienced any pest issues in the past year.

other: 8% | indicated at least one: 85% | not sure: 4% | none: 12%
Total exceeds 100% because participants could select all that apply.
gordzam; Alexey Protasov; Tomasz; Evgeniy; Ivan Kmit | Adobe stock; Mite photos by Raymond CLoyd

When narrowed down to the single most challenging pest to control, study results followed the same track. One in four cannabis growers who experienced pest issues in the past 12 months tagged “aphids” (26%) as the single most challenging offender. “Spider mites” (18%), “fungus gnats” (14%), and “thrips” (12%) filled out the top spots once again. “Russet mites” were noted as both a leading pest and the single most challenging pest to control by several study participants in “other” responses.

Base: Participants who indicated they have had pest issues in their growing operations in the past 12 months: 97
Aphids on a plant
Aleksandr Rybalko | iStockPhoto

Trends: Pest Pressures and Financial Impact

Half of all research participants saw “no change” (50%) in the pest pressures faced in their growing operations in the past 12 months. But whether that means they were—and still are—wrestling with pest challenges or have things under control is unknown. About one-fourth of cultivation companies saw a decrease (26%) in pest problems in their grows the past year. But nearly one in five growers reported an increase (19%) in pest problems during that period.

Pest-related issues in cannabis cultivation operations had financial implications for a substantial number of research participants. Nearly half (46%) of study participants experienced “moderate” (27%) to “significant” (19%) financial impact due to insect- or mite-related issues at their growing operations. Only one in five study participants reported that pest problems did not have a financial impact on their grow, either because “operation does not have insect- or mite-related issues” (12%) or existing pest issues don’t impact the operation financially (8%).

schankz | Adobe Stock

Pest Causes and Successful Control Actions

Pests can come into a growing operation via multiple avenues, over which growers have varying degrees of control. Not surprisingly, participants in this 2022 “State of the Pest Control Market Report” pointed to a mix of external and internal causes for their grow’s pest issues.

Of those participants who reported having pest issues in the past 12 months, one-third pointed to “contaminated plant material from offsite” as a cause. More than one-fourth (28%) of those with pest issues in the past year named “contaminated soil/growing media and/or pots transported from offsite” as the culprit.

But causes closer to home were also common. Research participants blamed “entrance from right outside the facility or grow area” (26%) and “employees bringing pests in on their clothes, boots, and/or outerwear” (22%) as a cause responsible for the past year’s pest issues. “Environmental control/conditions that attract pests” and “lack of or incomplete Integrated Pest Management practices” were both named as causes for pest problems by 19% of study participants.

Total exceeds 100% because participants could select all that apply; Base: Participants who indicated they have had pest issues in their growing operations in the past 12 months: 97

For growing operations that have successfully eliminated or reduced pests, study responses reflected multi-faceted approaches. “Beneficial insects/biological controls” topped the list of successful pest control actions, mentioned by 63% of research participants. More than half of all study participants mentioned one or more of the following actions as a component of their pest control success: “integrated pest management (IPM)” (56%), “cleaning/sanitation of facility, mobile equipment, and surrounding areas” (55%), and “scouting regularly” (51%).

Total exceeds 100% because participants could select all that apply