Garden pests are an ages old plague when it comes to bonsai.
Growing thriving, healthy bonsai is almost a sure-fire way to invite pests in to your trees. A healthy thriving bonsai is akin to an all you can eat buffet for most insects and pests. Luscious green foliage filled with sweet sugars is quite a delectable treat, thick gnarly bark with deep shaded grooves creates a cool hide away to get away from the heat and eat. The smell of decomposing fertilizer fills the air broadcasting to the masses that dinner is served. Bottom line, the healthier and more thriving your trees are, the more delicious they will be to the insects that want to destroy them. In this article, we’re going to take a look at natural ways you can help keep pests from your trees.
The main thing we’re going to talk about is the fight fire with fire approach to keeping your bonsai pest free. One of the best ways to keep harmful insects off your beautiful bonsai tree is by using beneficial insects who eat them.
First up is the ladybug
Unlike the troublesome bugs you want to keep out of your trees, ladybugs pose no harm to your bonsai trees. Ladybugs love making dinner out of some of your bonsai trees arch nemesis such as aphids, mealybugs, leaf hoppers, scales and mites.
There are a number of ways to attract ladybugs to your bonsai garden. Perhaps the best method is using flowers and herbs such as cilantro, dill, fennel, caraway, yarrow, tansy, angelica, scented geraniums and cosmos. All of these are known to attract ladybugs and planting any of these in the near vicinity of your bonsai trees is a great way to keep ladybugs near by and on guard to protect your bonsai. If you can’t get ladybugs to take up residence in your garden to start, you can always buy some from your local garden center and bring them home to get you started. A good number of them will leave once all the pests are eaten but you will always have a few here and there standing guard.
Next up is Brid’s
No matter what continent you live on you’ve got birds and a large portion of birds eat insects. Here in the USA we have; Chickadees, Wrens, Robins, Mockingbirds, Martins, Bluebirds, and many more. Birds eat on average of 550 million tons (1,100,000,000 LBS.) of insects every year.
Bluebirds will eat grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, larvae, & moths. Cardinals will eat beetles, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, & stinkbugs. Woodpeckers will eat larvae, beetles, weevils, & borers. The list goes on but the point is having birds frequenting your bonsai is a great way to keep the pests away. Here at our nursery we are big fans of the Chickadees, they make light work of aphids, whitefly, scale, caterpillars, ants, and earwigs. Besides being the Maine state bird, they make beautiful music while keeping our trees free of pests. The best course of action when it comes to birds and bonsai is find out what species of bug eating birds are native to your region, and build houses for them to nest, and put out food for them to eat. Also, birdbaths and water features are a great way to draw in the birds as they all have the need to drink in common. You can buy birdhouses online specifically designed for nearly any species of bird, and there are tons of resources to find out what kind of food to put out to draw in the bird species you are after.
Lastly is the great pesticide dilemma
Most common pesticides don’t discriminate, they kill any insects they come into contact with. This creates a perpetual problem as once you kill the beneficial insects there is no natural opposition to the harmful ones so once the pesticide wears off, the aphids, mites, scale and other harmful pests are the first to move back in. Ladybugs, solider beetles, green lacewings and parasitic wasps will all die from most common pesticides. An entire book could be written on why pesticides are not the solution to your infestation problem but to keep things short, and simple we will just summarize by pointing out the obvious. Pesticides don’t solve the problem, if they did, we wouldn’t have to keep using them. If you start using pesticides you will have to keep using them. It’s a vicious cycle. They may kill all the insects on and around your tree, but killing the good ones will mean open season for the bad ones to move back in.
There are a lot of quick fixes to pests in your bonsai trees, but the best most effective way to combat the problem is by encouraging nature to play out the way it has evolved to do so over millions of years. Quick fixes to your infestations usually result in long-term never-ending battles, but creating an environment in which nature runs its course will provide ongoing long-term protection for your beloved bonsai trees.