At the time, the bugs crawling on Steve Bailey’s new cannabis plants didn’t seem particularly special. They weren’t even all that annoying.
It was early 2016, during the first few months of Oregon’s legal recreational marijuana market, and a Portland company was running a “grow the best clone” contest. Entrants each received cuttings of the same strain from the same source to see who could grow it best.
“Within a matter of months, you saw everybody having it.”
Steve Bailey, Bull Run Craft Cannabis
And the clones received by Bailey and his partners at Bull Run, a craft “farm-to-jar” cannabis brand with cultivation operations in Boring, Oregon, had bugs.
“We threw them out and that was that,” Bailey recalled. Or it was, for a while. Before long, friends and colleagues—many of whom had participated in the same clone contest—noticed similar bugs crawling on some of their crops. “Literally, within a matter of months, you saw everybody having it,” he said.
Like that, Oregon’s cannabis aphid outbreak had begun.
Leafly’s Visual Quality Guide to Selecting Cannabis
A Bug’s Life
As anyone who grows marijuana (or has tried) knows, unwelcome visits from insects are an occupational hazard. Bailey, who grew up on a traditional farm in the Willamette Valley, identified them as a “normal lettuce aphid,” he said.
He wasn’t alone. Other cannabis farmers in the area initially mistook the unidentified bug as a green peach aphid, hop aphid, or other common pest, said Joshua Vlach, an entyomologist at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
The real culprit, it turns out, was Phorodon cannabis—literally the “cannabis aphid”—a pale yellow creature first identified and catalogued by an Italian researcher in the 1860s. For whatever biological reason, the bug evolved to feed on only plants of the