Bonsai trees can be a great addition to your plant collection, and if taken care of, bonsai can last for many years. No matter how diligent you are in taking care of your bonsai trees, the pesky bugs always somehow manage to infest the trees.
It is always a great ordeal for every bonsai tree owner, but you can learn how to get rid of bugs on bonsai trees and keep them at bay with our incredibly helpful tips.
Many pests can infest a bonsai. It is always a good measure to take necessary precautions to avoid an infestation. However, if your bonsai trees have fallen victim to bug infestation, it isn’t the end of the world.
You can still salvage your trees. Use our article to guide you on how to get rid of bugs on bonsai trees. Understand each type of bug that might attack your bonsai and how to tackle them in the following text.
Why Do Bonsai Trees Get Infested?
Numerous reasons may cause bug infestations on your bonsai trees. To know how to get rid of bugs on bonsai trees, first, you need to understand what is causing and attracting the bug infestation.
Then you need to learn the various types of bugs that may attack your bonsai because each bug needs to be dealt with differently. Following are some reasons that may be causing a bug infestation on your bonsai tree.
- Overwatering the bonsai is one of the leading causes of pest infestation. Excess water and moisture cause the formation of fungus, which attracts fungus gnats. Fungus gnats love to live on moist soil and plants.
- Another reason might be that your plant or soil was already infested when you bought it.
- Sometimes the soil may cause the infestation itself. When you buy a new bag of soil from the supplier and use it for the bonsai, it may already be carrying pests. It may go unnoticed at the start, but as the bugs start to expand their colonies, the infestation becomes noticeable.
- If you live in a warm and humid environment, your bonsai is likely to be infested by mealy bugs.
- Infestation can also happen during soil change.
- If you add a new bonsai to your collection, which is likely infested already, it can spread the infestation to other bonsai trees.
- Bonsai trees can also contract a pest infestation from any other plant infested.
How to Get Rid of Bugs on Bonsai Tree?
Different types of bug infestations require different techniques to get rid of them. The most common bug infestations faced by every gardener at some point in their lifetime are thoroughly discussed. These infestations include whiteflies, fungus gnats, aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs.
In the following text, we will discuss every type of infestation and how to get rid of it. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to get rid of bugs on a bonsai tree.
Aphids are one of the most common pests found in gardens. They are very small and come in various colors: black, brown, green, tan, yellow, and orange. Aphids’ infestation can often grow uncontrollably but can also be controlled using simple methods.
Some methods that can be opted to get rid of aphids are as follows:
- Insecticidal soap water
- Neem oil
- Lacewing larvae
- Generic pesticides
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Insecticidal Soap Water
To get rid of aphids using insecticidal soap water, follow these instructions. Take three cups of water and mix one tablespoon of dish soap. Mix them well together and add the mixture to a water spraying bottle.
After the mixture is prepared, spray it on the affected areas of your bonsai tree and wait for the aphids to die. It will take somewhere between 8 to 10 minutes for aphids to die.
Neem oil is an excellent organic pesticide. Neem oil kills the pests, prevents them, and keeps the plant healthy. You can either buy neem oil insecticidal spray directly from stores or mix a few tablespoons of neem oil in water to make your spray. Spray it directly on the plant or use a cotton swab to apply it.
Avoid using neem oil before sunset as it may cause the plant to react to sunlight and get overheated. Another important point is that always test the spray on a small part of the plant and check if it is harsh.
Adjust the concentration of the soap and the neem oil accordingly. Do not let the excess mixture sit on the tree. Wipe it off along with dead aphids using clean paper towels.
Ladybugs and lacewing larvae
Attracting other insects like ladybugs or lacewing larvae can help control the population of aphids and get rid of them. You can introduce the ladybugs in your garden or greenhouse, and if they have enough aphids to feed on, they won’t harm your precious bonsai.
It can be difficult to tell whether the aphids have attacked the roots or not. To protect in that area, you need to replant your plant and, while doing so, use a systemic pesticide to spray on the roots and soil.
2. White Flies
Whiteflies are very small, but the naked eye can still see them. When the plant is disturbed, they appear as small triangles flying around. If you see a clump of white eggs underneath the leaves or observe any white sticky substance, you have a white flies’ infestation. You can easily kill whiteflies by using the following methods:
- Sticky traps
- Neem oil
- Insecticidal neem oil
- Parasitic wasps
Before applying any form of pesticides, you need to remove the leaves infested by whiteflies. Whiteflies lay their eggs on the leaves, and if you don’t trim them, the eggs will hatch and infest the whole plant.
When you prune the affected leaves, you are getting rid of a huge mass of whiteflies population. Before you dispose of the infested leaves, please treat them with soap, water, or rubbing alcohol to kill the pests and avoid their spreading.
Use sticky traps to get rid of hovering whiteflies around your bonsai. You can either buy sticky traps and lay them around or make your own. Take a deep bottle and prepare a mixture of water and sugar in 1:1. This mixture will attract the whiteflies, and once they enter the bottle, they will be trapped and drowned.
Insecticidal Soap and Neem Oil
Like aphids, the whiteflies can also be killed by insecticidal soap and neem oil. Mix a gallon of water with one tablespoon of dish soap to kill whiteflies. And in the case of neem oil, buy the one with 70% concentration.
Spray the whole plant with the spray. Especially spray under the leaves. Let the spray sit for a while, and then wash it off with a stream of water. It will get rid of excess spray and clean off the dead insects.
Like aphids, you can use certain bugs to get rid of fireflies. Few of such insects are beetles, lacewing, and parasitic wasps. These bugs are not dangerous and will not sting; however, they will make your work much easier.
It would be best to have flower pots to attract wasps because they are drawn to the nectar. Also, keep some water containers nearby as the wasps require a lot of water to survive.
3. Fungus Gnats
Fungus gnats are the peskiest and most prevalent pest of all. They often inhabit moist soil, and it isn’t easy to control these little critters. There are two methods two get rid of fungus gnats; either by changing the soil or by baking the soil.
Method 1: Changing the soil
To replace the soil, carefully uproot your bonsai tree from the pot. Then thoroughly rinse and wash the bonsai to remove all the soil from the roots. Make sure there isn’t a single speck of soil left.
After cleaning the bonsai, rinse your pot and discard the old soil. Wash the pot and submerge it in warm water and dish soap to kill any fungus gnats.
Then dry the pot and add a fresh and clean batch of soil. Replant your bonsai carefully in the fresh soil, and you are done.
Method 2: Bake the soil
The second method involves baking your soil in an oven at a high temperature and reusing it. If you do not wish to change the soil, you can reuse it through baking. Uproot the bonsai and wash it thoroughly. Take out all the soil, place it in a baking tray, cover with aluminum foil and place it in the oven for 30 minutes at 200oC.
Meanwhile, wash the pot. Please take out the baked soil and let it cool down. Now replant your bonsai. This method is quite tedious and messy as compared to the first method. But one benefit of baking soil is that it will get rid of fungus gnats and kill any other pests present in the soil.
4. Spider Mites
Spider mites are vicious pests that can destroy your bonsai tree at a very fast pace. They multiply rapidly and attack the leaves and stems alike. To check if you have a spider mites’ infestation, take a white piece of paper, and hold it under the tree. Shake the tree to let some mites fall onto it. It makes it easier to observe and spot them as they are very tiny.
The first thing you need to do is isolate the infested bonsai as the spider mites can spread very easily. Then use the following method to get rid of the mites.
Insecticidal soap water or Neem Oil
You can get rid of spider mites using the same methods as those of aphids. Neem oil and insecticidal soap water will work wonders. To kill the spider mites, prepare a 2% soap water mixture by mixing one gallon of water with 5 tablespoons of soap.
Spray the mixture onto the plant, and do not forget to get the axils and lower parts of the leaves. Let the spray sit for a while, then wash it off. Keep repeating the process for at least 5 to 7 days to eliminate the spider mites. During this interval, the plant should remain isolated.
Important Note: Always do a patch test first to prevent the solution from damaging the sensitive bonsai leaves. If it reacts, then change the concentration. Apply the mixture on a cool day or after sunset.
Mealybugs are often attracted to plants that are under stress. It could be quite stressful to get rid of mealybugs as well.
They are water repellent; therefore, the normal water spraying insecticides won’t work on them. To get rid of them, you will need a systemic pesticide. You can also use methylated spirit to kill mealybugs.
The white waxy covering created by mealybugs makes them water-resistant. To get rid of them, you need to poison their food supply. Using any generic store-bought systemic pesticide can help you get rid of them.
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Some varieties of bonsai are sensitive to systemic pesticides, so always test a few leaves before spraying or applying them to the whole tree. Mealybugs can be very persistent, and sometimes you will have to repot your plant after treating it to ensure they won’t come back.
Growing bonsai and taking care of them can be a very meticulous task. A lot of care ensures your bonsai trees are healthy and live a long life. However, like any other plants, bonsai are also not safe from the attack of pesky bugs. To help you keep your bonsai healthy and happy, we have prepared this guide on how to get rid of bugs on a bonsai tree.
We hope this guide helps you identify and treat your pest infestation. Leave your feedback in the comments below if this article was helpful!