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Ask Erik: RAW! Don’t Do It! - “A” Devil in the Bottle Featured

Prevention is key, but if spider mites arrive in your hydroponics indoor garden and you have to spray, be careful what pesticide you decide to use. Your health is at stake. Prevention is key, but if spider mites arrive in your hydroponics indoor garden and you have to spray, be careful what pesticide you decide to use. Your health is at stake.

Q:

I have been growing for a while, and like most growers have had occasional battles with insects in my crop. However this time, it’s a little different. The crop is on a decline due to a really severe infestation that I just can’t seem to get under control with my usual applications of neem or pyrethrum based sprays. Admittedly, the grow is running a little warmer right now, which makes the spider mites that are eating my crop that much hungrier.

If you aren’t following proper protocol for the level of toxicity related to the application, you may be posing serious risks to your health and others in the surrounding area.

A grower friend says he can get me some really heavy duty stuff, labelled as “A” that will rid my crop of mites. It comes in a little glass vial and is very expensive. What worries me is that this seems like some kind of back-alley cure, because I can’t buy it at my regular shop. I am not 100% certain what it is or what the best way to use it is, although my grower friend says he can tell me how to use it.

What do you say?

A:

It sounds like a product called “Avid” which is a highly toxic industrial strength miticide that is labelled only for use on ornamental crops by certified and licensed pesticide applicators. Unfortunately, this stuff sometimes called “A” or “A-Bomb” gets circulated down from licensed purchases and re-packaged into little vials that are sometimes made available to unlicensed applicators.

It is highly poisonous. Not only in terms of potential residual on the crop harvested, but also as a real danger to the grower when applying sprays for controlling mites. If you aren’t following proper protocol for the level of toxicity related to the application, you may be posing serious risks to your health and others in the surrounding area.

Of even greater concern are the effects of long-term exposure to this toxic and potentially mutagenic substance. While the idea of growing a third arm may seem exciting, the reality of possibly developing cancerous cells is not.

Besides the risks to your health and those that want to enjoy your crop, it may actually not be all that effective on your target: the spider mites. Because industrial growers have relied on this product as a hard-lined control for many years now, spider mites have developed a resistance to the active ingredient in some instances. Actually spider mites will resist the “A-Bomb” more often than not in areas where there are high densities of commercial growers to be found.

A new generation of spider mites can emerge every seven days, so consider how many generations of spider mites can be created in a four-month cropping cycle. Also consider how many sheer numbers of spider mites that entails, especially in larger scale growing operations. It’s not hard to fathom that a few of these guys are going to become resistant, survive the toxic active ingredient, and then find similar mates to create new generations, which are highly resistant to the active ingredient in Avid. Yes that’s right: super-mites.

The best advice I can give to you is to avoid handling and spraying “A” onto your crop; it’s not intended for your type of plants and it may have little effect anyways. I do, however, recommend getting tighter control of the growing environment to help prevent severe infestations like the one you are experiencing, as well as to get bigger yields of higher crop quality.

As for sprays, look for miticides that are rated for use on food crops and that can be used safely as far into the growing calendar as your crop is. Those miticides will be safer for you and consumers, and will be much more likely to be effective, as they have not been over-used for years on your target pest.

As always, natural controls are the preferred method even in severe infestations.

As an alternative, research kill-level co2 applications. When applied correctly, these are safe and can be a highly effective and chemical free way to rid your favourite plants of problem insects.

Cheers, Erik Biksa

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As GrandMaster Flash would say – Don’t Do It! when it comes to killing hydroponics pests with “A” or “A-Bomb.”
Last modified on Friday, 31 August 2012 18:19

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