Thanks to Health Canada, regulations that limit the use of chemical pesticides on medical cannabis, a biological control specialist sees a boost in business.

“I have seen a lot of growth in demand since the start of the cannabis industry,” said Sarah Stuive, who works for Global Horticultural and also provides her services to vegetable farmers and plant growers. “It’s a new alternative to chemicals.”

There are a number of pests that can feed on cannabis crops which specialists like Stuive are on the lookout for, including fungus gnats, shore flies, thrips and spider mites.

Stuive, who administers the pest control and monitors its effectiveness at Bedrocan, uses three kinds of beneficial insects to manage pests:

Hypoaspis Miles: A tiny mite that lives in the soil and preys on fungus gnats, shore flies and thrips. Administered by sprinkling peat moss containing the mite onto the soil.
Nematodes: Microscopic round worms applied through the water system and eat the eggs of fungus nuts that have been laid in the root ball of the plant.
Amblyseius Swirskii: Predator that lives on the leaves of the plant, feeds on thrips, white flies, and spider mites. It’s often contained in sachets that are stuck into the ground on sticks or hung on the plant with a string.
Biological pest control can be costlier up front than using chemical sprays, says Emily Moeller, grow and production manager at Bedrocan, but in the long run producers who use this strategy could end up saving money.

“You won’t have to throw entire crops out because they’re contaminated.”