MMAD HYDROPONICS - Insects FAQ - The good and the bad bugs

Insects. (The GOOD and the BAD)


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beneficial insects


destructive insects


SouthWest Nova Scotia: Cutworm problems.


Important information:
It has come to our attention that a lot of gardeners in this Nova Scotia area are having issues with a borer or burrowing worms "a worm that enters the stocks / stems of your plants "via a dug hole" and kills them, eating the core of stems and stocks.

The most prevalent burrowing worm "brought to my attention" in our area, is the Cutworm and it is reeking havoc on many local gardens.
The cutworms are the larva of moths so they will not multiply on their own. The cutworm may only pupate and hatch into moths and then grow / mature into moths, and then again, lay more eggs that will become more cutworms the following year.

If you are having a cutworm issue, please stop by and visit us so we can enlighten you on products or applications that may help you get this infestation under control, in addition to practices that will help reduce future infestations.

For those of you living in SouthWest Nova Scotia "Ca", with ongoing cutworm issues, it is thought by many seasoned growers that, there is a possibility that this culprit could be linked to compost being used.

Note:This year local growers have been in touch with us with issues pertaining to cutworms, and please note; these growers are all using a compost that was acquired at the same composting location! "not saying that the compost is not good, but never the less same compost being used by different growers, and these growers are having the same burrowing worm issues...."

Oftentimes, stem borers are usually not detected until the damage has already been done, and that is because they tend to wreak havoc from the inside of the plant.  Examine the stems of your plants for holes with surrounding brown trails.  Chances are you have a problem if you see visible holes on your stems.  The most effective treatment for stem borers is to cut them out of the plant.  If the plant does not ‘come back’, make a clean cut at the base of the trail, completely removing it to ensure no further damage.

Alternatrive to rough composting. Use Biosol

Biosol - hydroponic suppliesNow available at MMAD Hydroponics: We provide a variety of the latest hydroponic media available. Our Biosol product provides nutrients and organic matter for healthy root growth, Contains seeweed which stimulates plant growth.

30 litres / 12.5 kg bags

  • Provides nutrients and organic matter for healthy root growth.
  • Contains seeweed which stimulates plant growth.
  • Increase water retention of sandy soils.
  • Lawn top dressing.
  • Preparation and maintenance of vegetable gardens.
  • Planting and maintaining trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials.
  • Fertilizing flower boxes.


Compost manure, sphagnum peat moss, shrimp flour, seaweed.



To add organic matter to the soil:
  • Aerate your lawn.
  • Spread 3 mm (1/8 in) of BIOSOL Sea Compost over the lawn.
  • Rake evenly.
  • Seed the bare areas.
  • Apply nutrients ® or Organic Fertilizers, if required.
  • Mix 1 bag of BIOSOL Sea Compost with 3 bags of Gardening Top Soil.
  • Fill the planting hole.
Nutritional Supplement
  • Spread 2 to 5 cm (3/4 to 2 in) of BIOSOL Sea Compost on the soil surface.
  • Mix with the soil or leave on the surface.
Flower boxes
Adds nutritional supplement to your flower boxes all summer :
  • Spread 2.5 cm (1 in) of BIOSOL Sea Compost on the bottom of the box.
  • Fill flower box with Potting Mix.

Guaranteed minimum analysis:

1.2 - 0.7 - 0.6

Garden Insects:


Garden Insects @ MMAD Hydroponics

Insecticides: View some of the insecticides we stock.

Bug B Gon
End All
Insect Traps
Spider Mite Knockout
Sticky Sticks

Insects: Good & Bad.

Spider Mites

You'll first suspect spider mites when your plants start showing up with little yellow speckle marks, right on the leaf surface. (Also see thrips.) When you turn the leaf over, tiny, oval shaped mites are seen scurrying around, about pin-head in size. Their eggs, best seen with a magnifier, will be scattered around at random (perfectly round, all the same size, color ranging from clear to tan). With larger infestations, a fine webbing can be seen covering the plant tops (crawling with mites), and leaves will be browning and dying. Spider mites seem about the most common pest to show up in a greenhouse or indoors. They're best controlled with spider mite predators, similar sized mites that eat them. A few gardeners report success with pirate bugs or ladybugs.

Spider mites take about 2 weeks per generation at 70 F. (from egg to adult). At low temperatures below about 50'F. they become dormant, and at higher temperatures above 86 F., their life cycle is sped up to about double. They prefer lower humidity levels, so raising the humidity helps control them.

The most common mite species by far is the "two-spot: spider mite. They're usually yellow/tan/greenish in color, and have two dark spots on their shoulders, one on each side. How large these spots get depends on the age of the mite; they get larger as the mite gets older. These two spots are also varied according to how much chlorophyll is in the plant being reared; some crops produce mites colored much darker than others.

Strangely, spider mites have the ability to go dormant in winter, and then return when it warms up again. Triggered mostly by the daylight getting shorter in the fall, some or most of the mites turn red in color, stop feeding and egg laying, and then crawl off to protected nooks and crannies to hide through the winter. A warm, heated greenhouse can counteract these impulses to hibernate, but some probably will anyway, so it's easy to see why spider mites tend to keep coming back - season after season. Spider mites can also float along with wind currents, or be carried by pets or clothing. The common two-spot spider mite is found throughout the world, it's so widespread.


Feeding only on spider mites (and their eggs), spider mite predators also breed twice as fast, making them our most popular mite control. Actually carnivorous mites, each predator feeds on about 5 spider mites a day, or 20 of their eggs. Used as directed, predators should gain control within 4 weeks, and then continue until the spider mites are nearly or completely wiped out later. Predators disappear when the mites are gone.

Surprisingly, spider mite predators are this effective even through they're no larger than the spider mites, and sometimes smaller. Shaped a little more streamlined, they have longer legs which let them run faster, too. Attacking from the side, they suck the juices out of their spider mite prey.

For best results, start with at least 1 predator for every 25 spider mites. (1 to 15 for ornamentals, where appearance is important.) No, you don't have to count every mite! Count the mites on just a leaf or two, on perhaps every 10th plant, Average them out, estimate the garden population, and divide this by 25 for the number of predators to use. If this sounds too complicated, start with 2 predators per leaf, or perhaps 30-50 per plant. Using more predators gives faster control.

There are a few different kinds of predator mites, that can all be used together or separately. For the most part, they like higher humidities (70-90%) ; you'll note that tolerance for lower humidity varies. Cool temperatures in the low 50's tend to make them go dormant, but they'll actually survive short periods down almost to freezing. Upper temperature limits vary according to species.

MMAD HYDROPONICS offers many kinds of insecticides to help you clear infestations of these bad bugs.


Suspect whiteflies when you start seeing small (1/12"), pure white "moths" that are mostly resting on the plant leaves. When disturbed, all rush out in the air, hesitate a while, then fly back into the foliage. Looking closer, the plants might appear shiny with honeydew. With a magnifier, small clear-white "scales" (the pupa) are seen on the lower, underneath sides of the plants. All stages suck on plant juices, and heavily infested plants will yellow and grow poorly.

There are at least 2 whitefly species now causing distress for gardeners, greenhouse whitefly and sweet-potato whitefly. For greenhouse whiteflies use whitefly parasites. Whitefly parasites work against sweet-potato whiteflies, too, but not as well. For these we suggest you also use whitefly predators, and possibly also green lacewings. (It's difficult to tell whitefly species apart, but one chart appears below. We suggest you check with your county agent to be sure - you can have both.) You can also use yellow sticky traps - seriously, whiteflies are attracted to the color yellow. Our yellow whitefly traps are coated with a long lasting sticky substance (Stickem-Special), and the whiteflies fly right to them. (Don't wear yellow clothing around whiteflies - you'll just carry them from plant to plant!) Some gardeners use a vacuum cleaner - one person rustles the plant leaves to stir up the whiteflies, the other sucks them out of the air (paint the inlet bright yellow for extra attraction). Make a game of it!

What finally kills plants off with a heavy whitefly infestation isn't usually whiteflies themselves, but a black sooty mold that grows on accumulated honeydew. By the time plants get to this stage, there'll be clouds of whiteflies, and no mistaking this pest. If you're at that point, rinse the shiny coating off the plants with a strong water or soapy water spray, so the mold can't grow on it. Rinsing off excess honeydew helps your beneficial insects, too.


Tiny whitefly parasites (Encarsia formosa) lay their eggs inside developing whitefly pupa, so one of their babies hatches out instead of the whitefly! So small their flights are measured in inches, not feet, you'll probably not even see whitefly parasites (except with magnification), but they spell death for whiteflies. For fastest control, make 4 releases of parasites, spaced 2 weeks apart for greenhouse whitefly. If you have sweet-potato whitefly, continue with releases every 2 weeks until control is reached. 1000 whitefly parasites is enough for a 1000 square foot greenhouse with a low-level infestation (a few whiteflies per plant).

Encarsa formosa come packaged ready to hatch, glued to small cards. The perforated cards are hung from plant foliage, and parasites emerge as adults within 2 weeks. Then they fly off, and begin looking for more whitefly pupa to parasitize. Since they're so tiny, how do you know they're working? With greenhouse whitefly, within 10 days the parasitized pupa turns totally jet-black in color, instead of its normal clearish- green color. With sweet-potato whitefly the pupa turns only slightly yellowish, but after 2 or 3 weeks the "emergence hole" can be seen in both cases when the adult parasite chews his way out (16X magnifier required). Parasites work best when temperatures average at least 68'F. (add daytime + nighttime temperatures, divide by 2), Lower temperatures than these will require more frequent releases, at least monthly


What you notice first with aphids is leaves that are curled, puckered, and discolored. Looking closer, dense colonies of tiny (1/32"-1/8"), soft bodied, pear shaped insects are seen, especially on tender growing tips and underneath sides. Young aphids look like miniature adults, and the whole family will be found feeding together. Even when disturbed, aphids move quite slowly, compared to most other insects.

Coming in almost every color, aphids can be green, yellow, pink, brown, or black, or any shade in between, for that matter. To make a final diagnosis of aphids, with a magnifier, find the pair of tiny "dual exhaust pipes" coming out of their rear end, called "cornicles" - aphids are the only insects that have these. Aphids all feed by sucking on plant juices, which is damaging enough, but their most serious damage is the plant diseases they carry - that's what causes the leaf distortions so often seen with aphids. They produce shiny honeydew, too, and when enough of this builds up a choking mold starts growing that can quickly kill plants. (Keep this mold hosed off.) Combine these problems along with aphids unusual breeding abilities - they're born already pregnant (in fact, there are miniature embryos inside of other embryos!), they're all female, and they reach adulthood in one week - and you see why aphids can be such a rapidly devastating pest. There are lots of aphid species, too, with enough variety that just about every plant has at least one species that really likes it.

Ladybugs are the classic aphid eaters, and are known for sometimes dramatically fast cures. They're economical, and can be stored in the refrigerator, often making ladybugs the first choice for aphid control. Long-term control is sometimes better with aphid predators, larvae that devour aphid colonies, and breed from there. Green lacewings are also effective against aphids. Our newest control is aphid parasites. Between these choices, greenhouse aphid control is usually quite successful. These same aphid controls are effective in the outdoor garden, too, with regular releases


Tiny, slender thrips feed by scraping and rasping at tender leaf surfaces. First symptoms are usually leaves that appear finely speckled with yellow spots. Later, a silvery-metallic looking sheen may cover leaf surfaces (not with all thrips, though), and black specks (thrips fecal material) may be scattered about. Only after close inspection is the real pest found. About 1/10" long, thrips can move quite quickly for their size. To the bare eye, many gardeners report thrips as a small "worm" with legs. Both larvae and adults look similar, except adults have wings and can fly. In small numbers, thrips may not do much damage. However, with larger populations, they can be quite damaging.

There are hundreds of varieties of thrips, coming in many colors, but they all feed and damage plants similarly. For control purposes, the main difference is where they pupate as youngsters. Most pest thrips move down into the soil (they'll also use rockwool or other synthetic media) to pupate, as part of their lifecycle, where they can be controlled by predator nematodes. This is the easiest stage to kill. It does take 2 or 3 applications before good control is seen, however, because only the immature thrips are killed, and not the adults. These adults can be controlled with Safers Soap, if necessary, and after 2 months regular applications of predator nematodes alone usually gives good control. A few other thrips species pupate directly inside leaf tissue.(notably the species greenhouse thrips), where the nematodes are not as effective. You can tell if thrips are using the leaf to pupate, because when they are, the hatching thrip causes a small eruption on the leaf surface - it looks something like a tiny pimple, or a little volcano complete with crater. Unhatched eggs look like a little dab of Elmers glue. If you see these signs, thrips parasites are a good control. (Other thrips species that pupate in the soil are not controlled by these.)

Other natural thrip controls include thrips predatory mites (see right) which work well in greenhouses with higher humidity levels, green lacewings,, and pirate bugs. A few gardeners report success with ladybugs too.

Cool temperatures help control thrips, too - they seem most damaging in hot greenhouses with temperatures 90 and higher. Thrips also prefer lower humidity levels, and higher humidities help slow them down.

Fungus Gnats & Fleas

When you see small, dingy-gray flies flying around aimlessly, or seeming to come out of the soil, you've probably got fungus gnats. Adults look very similar in size and appearance to fruit flies, and don't feed on plants in any way. Their larvae, a small worm that lives in the top inch or two of the soil, feeds mostly on organic debris, fungus, algae, etc. While they're doing this, however, they can nibble on the roots of young seedlings, too. Plants usually outgrow them rapidly, though, so they're often more of a nuisance than a real pest.

Fungus gnats can be told apart from whiteflies, a much more serious pest, because fungus gnats are a dingy gray instead of pure white, and they don't spend much time resting on the leaves like whiteflies do.

If fungus gnats seem to be causing harm or becoming a nuisance, the adults can be quickly trapped out with yellow sticky traps. Long term control has been best with predator nematodes, applied to the soil every 4-6 weeks. Between the two, fungus gnats are soon a forgotten problem.

Just about everyone with dogs or cats is familiar with fleas. Not only do fleas cause our pets true misery, but many humans are severely bothered as well. Fleas bite because they need blood meals to complete their lifecycle. Flea saliva secreted while feeding causes many common allergic reactions, on both people and pets. Pets can't help carrying around fleas and their eggs wherever they go. Those fleas and eggs are constantly dropping off, in sleeping areas, rooms pets have access to, and outside. Thorough vacuuming (including crevices) every 3 days controls house fleas. However, for fleas in the yard, new research shows that Predator Nematodes sprayed outside where pets have access to, especially during moist periods, greatly reduces flea populations, before they even crawl on your pets in the first place.


Another insect that sucks on plant juices, mealybugs cause damage similar to aphids - leaves will be distorted, plants are weakened, covered with shiny honeydew, and finally a sooty mold grows, killing the plant. However, when a search is made for the cause, they don't look much like insects. Clusters of mealybugs look more like some kind of cottony mass instead of pests. It's only on close examination that they're seen to be individual, soft bodied, very slow moving insects.

Coated with a fluffy, waxy coating, mealybugs tend to gather quietly together in groups, often at a crotch or joint in the plant. But don't let this innocent looking crew fool you. Even though mealybugs breed somewhat slower than other insects (each generation takes about a month), they can build up to quite damaging populations. Fortunately, we have mealybug destroyers that like to feed on them. Green lacewings feed on mealybugs too, but need to be released regularly. And be sure to keep that honeydew rinsed off the plants as much as possible, with a water or soapy water spray, to keep mold from growing. Between these measures, you should get good control.


Related to mealybugs, scales don't look much like insects, either - they look more like little oyster shells attached to the stems and leaves. Active only as babies, they soon lose their legs, grow a hard outer shell, and settle in for a quiet life of sucking on plant juices. Often, the first symptom noticed is shiny honeydew covering the leaves. (Not all scales produce this.) Looking closer, especially on the undersides of leaves and stems, the scales are visible, singly or in clusters. Shaped circular to slightly oval, they readily scrape off with a fingernail. Plants may be stunted, yellowed, and distorted, damage similar to that of other sap-sucking insects.

There are many varieties of scales, both hard and soft, coming in many colors, but all feed and damage similarly. Mealybug destroyers also feed on scales when mealybugs run low, and green lacewings feed on the crawler stage, giving some control. Scale control with natural predators has been variable, and we continue to search for improved controls. Many gardeners resort to spraying or dabbing alcohol, light oil, soapy sprays, or mixtures of the above for scale control. Test a small area for toxicity from any of t hese products first.


Anywhere nuisance flies are breeding - compost piles, manure accumulations, livestock bedding, etc., housefly parasites go to work fast. 15,000 treats several head of livestock, or numerous rabbits, chickens, or other small animals. Apply at least once a month for continuing control, or more often for severe problems or larger ranches. We offer a mix of species for control of most pest flies, including house, stable, face, blow, and horn flies.