The. Absolute. Worst... But you got this!
Bugs on your bonsai can be a real shot through the heart. In this brief article, we will introduce you to a few relatively simple strategies to prevent and treat these unwanted creatures.
First, do your best to identify the bugs on your tree. This can be difficult on occasion, so if you aren't sure even after research; just start to identify characteristics:
- Can they fly? If yes, that means that they can zip from one plant to another, and isolation is in order.
- Are they stationary? If yes, that means they may not have traveled between plants (but it's best to check).
- Where are they? In the soil? All over the bark? Only on new growth at the branch tips?
- How easy can you remove one? What happens when you bop, flick, squish, spritz, or blow one of the bugs?
The beginning; a very good place to start.
In any situation, it is a good idea to gather all affected trees and plants and isolate them from the rest of your collection while treatment begins.
First, let's get to the root causes. Oftentimes it isn't your fault and bugs or larvae can ride in on the plant when you receive or purchase it. Plant-focused retailers are the best place to buy material because they are usually aware of best practices regarding plant health and pest management.
Big box stores and stores with plants on the side, often have overlooked and under-managed plant collections.
RESEARCH! What conditions are required by your new plant? If you cannot replicate the plant's natural environment or cannot or will not care for the plant as needed; its best to keep looking for a plant that suits your lifestyle.
Best practices to avoid bugs include: lots of light (sunlight is best), constant air circulation (fan or breezes through windows), and avoid over watering.
Ok, so now you've got bugs. Gross.
First, it is not a death sentence! There are plenty of ways to treat and attack bugs, and the plant can recover!
If they fly, one very easy and effective thing to do is to get yellow sticky traps. There are a number of different kinds and shapes, but they all work great. They will slowly trap more and more of your airborne bugs and drastically reduce their presence.
If they are in the soil, our favorite thing to use is a granular houseplant insecticide. The solid, granular form allows you to avoid sprays that can move about the air in your space. Apply as directed on the container.
If they are on the bark or on new growth and branch tips, first spray the branches and foliage with a harsh spray of water using a hose, faucet, or shower to try and remove as many bugs as you can.
Next, you can spot attack the bugs using q-tips and rubbing alcohol. This is time consuming, but very effective against most bugs without being too invasive to the plant itself.
You can also mix water, Dawn dish soap, and rubbing alcohol (3:1:1) in a spray bottle and spray the canopy thoroughly. Avoid oils, as they can block the stomata (plant pores) on Portulacaria afra leaves and disrupt the plants' transpiration process.