As with any kind of plant production, there’s always going to be pests. Indoor hydroponic pests can become a huge problem if you don’t know how to identify and treat them. Some of these indoor pests cause problems for outdoor gardens so you may already have an idea on treatment options. But if this whole gardening thing is brand new to you, you’ve come to the right place. Today’s post is going to talk about a few of those common indoor gardening pests that you should be aware of and what you should do if they happen to find your plants.
One of the most common hydroponic pests is the aphid. A common thought is that these little pests are green colored but really they can be green, black, yellow, or gray. Low populations of aphids are almost a given with any garden, indoor or outdoor. When you have a low population of aphids, you generally don’t need to take any steps to completely eradicate them; however, aphids can become a huge problem because they breed quickly if given the opportunity.
So how do aphids attack and destroy your plants? Aphids suck the juices out of every part of the plant, including buds. And because of their nature they can spread disease very quickly from one plant to another as they move along. They also secrete a sticky substance that attracts ants, causing another problem for your plants. You can find these pests all over the plant, but common places for them to hang out are around the stem and under leaves. A great way to keep aphids off of your plants is to spray them with a safe (usually soap based) insecticide or to keep their natural predators, ladybugs, around your operation.
Spider mites are another common indoor garden pest that can damage your plants. These little arachnids (not insects) are one of the most hated hydroponic pests, both indoors and outdoors. Because they’re so small, they’re usually not detectable until they’ve already started damaging your plants. The biggest sign that you have a spider mite infestation is discoloration of the leaves. If you’ve noticed your leaves start to become more yellow and you’ve eliminated nutrient deficiencies, take a paper towel and gently wipe the underside of a leaf. If you see little streaks of “blood,” those are from the spider mites and you should take action against them.
Just like aphids, they suck the juices out of your plants, causing them to weaken and die. An easy way to prevent these hydroponic pests is to keep the humidity in your growing room as close to 50 percent as possible. Spider mites thrive in dry conditions so 50% is enough that it keeps the spider mites away without harming your plants. Other ways to treat your plants include spraying them with an appropriate miticide or spider/tick control spray. Because spider mites aren’t insects, they usually won’t be affected by an insecticide.
Another hydroponic pest on the juice-sucking list: thrips. Thrips are yellow, brown, or black insects that tend to show up in large numbers. The leaves that they feed on will turn brown and dry but they also like to feed on flowers and unfertilized buds, making it hard to have any kind of harvest from your plants. The most common way to get rid of thrips is to use disposable sticky traps, the kind that you might also use for flies. Thrips are tiny insects that have a very short life span. If you’re going to use any spray or application, you need to reapply it about four or five times during the span of 12-14 days. This helps to control both the larvae and the adults. Ladybugs, mentioned before with spider mites, are a natural predator of thrips and help to control the population.
And another juice-sucking insect- whiteflies. The name is pretty descriptive of these indoor pests. They look like little white moths that are only a few millimeters long. Like aphids, they secrete a substance that attracts ants. This fluid, known as honeydew, is a perfect breeding ground for a sooty-like mold. You might even see the mold before the whiteflies, which means that you now have TWO problems to solve, instead of just one. As with some of the hydroponic pests mentioned before, ladybugs are a natural predator, so releasing a few in your greenhouse can only help you!
Another really effective predator for whiteflies is the parasitic wasp, which might make you squirm at the thought of. Fortunately the majority of parasitic wasp species aren’t even able to sting so you can rest easy while they help control your pest problem. Sticky traps will also help to weed out the flying adults. As with almost any other pest, a safe pesticide will help to thin out high populations of both nymphs and adults. A natural option is something called neem oil. Neem oil is derived from the neem plant (crazy, we know) and can be sprayed on your plants for almost any kind of indoor gardening pest. This oil messes with pests’ natural growth cycle and keeps nymphs from turning into adults.
Hydroponic Pests Recap
Here’s a recap, just to help you keep it all together:
- Pesticides: will benefit you for just about any insect that comes your way. It’s the fast, simple, and (usually) cheap way to fix the problem. However, the vast majority of pesticides are going to be made with chemicals. There are natural options, but be prepared to pay an arm and a leg for them. Neem oil is a common, natural pesticide that is very effective because it keeps the nymphs of insects from turning into egg-laying adults. And pesticides won’t get rid of spider mites because they’re actually arachnids, leaving you with a miticide, such as Doktor Doom Spider Mite KnockOut as a solution.
- Natural Predators: are an easy, worry-free pest control. The best thing about this plan of action is the fact that you can release these beneficial bugs around your operation and then essentially forget about them.They’ll take care of themselves and you usually don’t have to reapply treatment. Parasitic wasps are effective for certain pests and normally won’t bother a human (and can’t sting them anyway). For the less courageous, ladybugs are natural predators of a great deal of indoor gardening pests. The downside of ladybugs is that they don’t tend to stay in the same place if they’re not motivated to. This means that they’re just as likely to fly off into the wild as they are to stick around your garden.
- Sticky Traps: are a common way to get rid of any flying pest, inside or out. They are convenient to purchase at any local shopping center or garden store. They’re easy to set up and dispose of. And they’re usually cheap and come in bulk packages. These are only a hassle if you forget where you put them or aren’t looking and happen to run into them. But the biggest con to these easy fixes is the fact that they only work if the insects fly into them. And a little inch to two-inch strip of sticky tape isn’t all that big in a room full of space. A good pro-tip for these is to put a few at the base of your plants to catch more pests as they fly down to the roots or growing medium to rest, breed, or lay eggs.
These four hydroponic pests are the most common, which makes them the most likely to become a problem. Hopefully by now, you’re a little more confident in your ability to identify these pests and how to treat your plants for them.
And as with anything, the internet is vast and you can always find a forum or website that can help you find a diagnosis or treatment plan! Just make sure that the treatment fits your morals and doesn’t harm your plants just to get back at a few pesky little bugs.