How to EASILY Get Rid of Pill Bugs (aka: Roly Poly and Sowbug)

How to Get Rid of Pill Bugs

Contents

Pill bugs are one of the best-known little pests due to their armadillo-like defense mechanism. Unfortunately, they can be known by one of several different names depending on your location, and all of them are actually misnomers.

Regardless of what you call them, they’re an interesting little critter that has a habit of invading your home. Here’s how to get rid of pill bugs…

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Table of Contents

Identifying Pill Bugs

Pill bugs are a small, armored critter that looks more like a cross between a trilobite and armadillo. They’re really easy to spot, although it’s easy to get them confused with pill millipedes. As these two critters have a convergent evolution (meaning they evolved separately with a similar end result), we’ll be lumping the two together for much of this discussion.

A Bug by Any Other Name

Depending upon where you live, this bug and its similar counterpart, the pill millipede, can have one or over 20 different nicknames. While the pill bug and sow bug (pill millipede) are only distant cousins, their similarity means you’ll probably not know which you have until you’re up close

Pill Bug

Perhaps the second most common name for this critter, it’s in reference to the slightly squashed look when the pill bug rolls into a ball. To this day, some pills have a similar shape.

Potato Bug

The most common name, especially on the East Coast, these critters have gained this name due to their habit of infesting potato plants.

Roly-Poly/Rollie Pollie

Besides being fun to say, this name is a direct reference to the bug’s ability to roll into a ball.

Wood Louse

This is actually a name that gets around quite a bit, and is again related to the bug’s habit of living near a cool, damp food source.

Other names

Between the two species, there are a number of names found worldwide. These additional names include:

Basic Biology

Being arthropods, pill bugs have a lot of biological features that are difficult to spot. The most obvious is their oblong, segmented body. Most often grey in color, the plates may also appear brown, white (after hatching), and pinkish (during molting).

Their underside is whitish, with several pairs of legs. They also have two long, thick antennae which have segments that make them look like additional legs.

Speaking of legs, they have smaller appendages under their shell which resemble legs but are actually used for breathing, grabbing water, and mating.

Pill Bug vs Sow Bug Biology

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The biology of these two critters can be so similar that you often won’t know which you have until you’re very close. Pill millipedes (sow bugs) have a flatter body and cannot roll into a ball. They also have an appendage somewhat resembling a tail and coloration a little closer to that of millipedes.

One other major difference is in the legs. Pill bugs have up to 7 pairs of legs, or one per segment. Pill millipedes, conversely, have two pairs per segment.

What do Rollie Pollie Bugs Eat?

These little guys are an important part of the environment and feed off of dead plant matter. This is why woodlice can often be found in rotting trees. They’ve earned the nicknames “potato bugs” and “tomato bugs” because they’ll sometimes go after healthy crop foods, although these are most often young plant shoots.

Getting Rid of Pill Bugs

As a general rule, pill bugs are harmless and help aerate the soil. They’re also edible, but I wouldn’t recommend this, as they taste terrible. However, if you see these little guys munching on young garden plants or invading your home, then steps need to be taken.

In the Garden

As already mentioned, pill bugs can be highly beneficial to your garden. They make compost, aerate the soil, and have enough predators that they’ll rarely overpopulate any outdoor space. The downside is that they’ll sometimes snack on young shoots and berries, giving the signal that an eviction is needed.

When eliminating pill bugs from your garden, you should always think of it as as form of population control and not an outright extermination. These critters are necessary for your garden to remain healthy, so never try to completely eradicate them.

Some people use salt to try and dry the pill bug, although this isn’t very effective and could harm your plants. A more positive weapon is Diatomaceous Earth, which is relatively safe for humans and larger pets, but will kill insects and other bugs which walk over it.

Other critters such as frogs and lizards love to eat small bugs and pill bugs are no exception. So get yourself a couple of these to control the rollie pollie infestation but then you may have other critters to worry about.

You can check the trap once per day up to once per week. Remove any pill bugs you find in the cavity, as well as a handful of the dirt under the trap. You can reuse the trap and dispose of your “captured” critters.

Incidentally, cantaloupe rinds can also be used instead of potatoes.

In the House

The most frequent place you’ll find roly polies invading your home is in the basement. The cool, damp atmosphere is perfect for their needs, and they love the darkness. Simply using a dehumidifier is sometimes enough to get them out of a finished basements.

Finding a pill bug in your home can be an important early warning sign of water damage. As they require moisture to survive, spotting an infestation of pill bugs near pipes or portions of wall can be an indication that repairs are needed. Once the source of moisture is gone, the pill bugs will soon follow.

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Note that you will need to not only remove the source of moisture, but also seal any nearby cracks or entry points. The pill bugs themselves can simply be vacuumed up, but so long as there’s a hospitable space (especially in the autumn when these critters are looking for a warmer residence), there’s always a risk of reinfestation.

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How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs

Their days of making a, well, stink are over.

Stink bugs, along with their other more unpleasant insect friends (like roaches), are one of the more unpleasant harbingers of spring. Along with fruit flies or gnats, you’ll likely welcome stink bugs into your garden or home at some point, too. The type of stink bug you have most likely encountered is invasive brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB, for short), which was introduced to North America in the mid-1990s from its native Asia and is harmless to humans but can certainly become a nuisance if left to roam freely around sunny, otherwise-pleasant bathrooms and bedrooms. Before you go into full bug-zapping mode, read up on the root of the problem and find tips for prevention and management.

What attracts stink bugs?

While it may seem as if these pests appear out of nowhere, their presence can usually be attributed to a handful of factors. Stink bugs like fruit (especially ripe fruit) so if you’re a fan of the classic countertop fruit bowl, your ripe bunch of bananas could be a culprit. Unfortunately for gardening gurus, stink bugs also enjoy a wide variety of native plants, from ornamental shrubs to wild vines and weeds. They are known to snack on any and all parts of plants, including the blooms, buds, fruits or vegetables, and even nuts, so chances are high that your garden contains some flora of interest.

To add to the list of unavoidable stink bug attractions, these insects love warmth and sunlight. They typically go through a «hibernation» period during cold winter months, often hiding in walls or unoccupied spaces like attics. When winter temperatures start to rise and days get sunnier, the bugs come out of hiding (eek!) and become more active. Stink bugs can weasel their ways into spaces, but often cannot figure out how to escape, thus causing a small community to suddenly inhabit your home.

What do stink bugs smell like?

Stink bugs are part of an insect family that uses smell as a defense mechanism. When threatened or squashed, stink bugs emit a strongly scented substance from a gland in their abdomen. (Yuck!) To human noses, the smell resembles herbs or spices, like cilantro, mixed with a chemical smell. In other words, it’s not a pleasant odor. If you come across a stink bug, try gently transferring the bug outside or using an insect-trapping vacuum (or similar bug zapper) to remove it without smushing it or causing distress.

Do stink bugs bite?

Stink bugs stick to plants and other outdoor food sources. They do not sting or bite, and while they have a tendency to sneak up and pull a surprise landing on you (or in your clothes, or in your hair), stink bugs are generally harmless to humans.

When is stink bug season?

Stink bugs exist year-round, but you are more likely to see a bump in stink bug sightings during the spring and summer months, when temperatures rise and the bugs that sought a warm winter haven in your home or garden begin to venture back out into the open.

How do I keep stink bugs out of my house?

Check entry points.

Start by examining all possible entry points and addressing any obvious cracks or openings. Check window frames (especially in areas that receive frequent sunlight), door frames, exterior wood siding, and even around electrical outlets and light fixtures. Seal up any areas in question with caulk (a silicone-based formula is recommended for glass), or perform necessary repairs to fix larger openings and possible entry points.

Assess exterior lighting.

Because stink bugs are attracted to light, consider switching out exterior light bulbs for yellow bulbs or sodium-vapor lights, which are known to be less «attractive» to insects. (Sodium vapor lights are often used to reduce light pollution in big cities, or near beaches with sea turtle nesting activity.)

Consider chemicals.

If you’ve sealed all entry points to the best of your abilities and tried reducing light, your stink bug situation might require some chemical assistance. Common chemical sprays contain deltamethrin, a pesticide known to kill stink bugs, and can be used near common entry points or around windows or other spots where the bugs like to congregate.

Try a home remedy.

A simple combination of hot water, dish soap, and white vinegar is suggested to be an effective «trap» for stink bugs. (Farm & Dairy recommends filling a spray bottle with 2 cups of hot water, 1 cup of white vinegar, and 1/2 cup dish soap, then spraying the bugs directly.)

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How to Get Rid of Bugs on Bonsai Trees (Naturally!)

So, you need to get rid of some bugs on your bonsai tree.

In this comprehensive pest control guide, you’ll learn:

  • How to identify which pest is eating your bonsai tree
  • How to get rid of worms and bugs in your bonsai soil
  • Ways to kill aphids, mites, ants, and flies on your plant
  • And more!

Feel free to bookmark this page for easy reference back to it.

By the end of it, you should have a clear knowledge of how to get rid of the most common pests found on bonsai trees.

You can also ask me anything by leaving a comment below!

Sound good? Let’s clean up your bonsai tree from pests!

Last updated: 12/30/19.

Why does my bonsai tree have bugs?

There are a few different reasons why your bonsai tree has bugs.

See also:  Coronavirus and chloroquine: Is there evidence it works? BBC News

The most common reason why bugs are present:

  • You purchased a new tree and it was already infested (either the tree or soil)
  • Pests eventually discovered your bonsai tree or soil and established a colony
  • A recent soil change may have introduced new bugs
  • A recent introduction of a new plant may have introduced new bugs
  • Your tree or soil was always infested, but the pest colony is now visible due to expansion

As you can see, there are many reasons why you see pests. Regardless, we’ll cover how to get rid of them quickly.

How do I get rid of aphids on my bonsai tree?

Aphids are a common pest that infests plants, with bonsai trees being no exception.

They come in all different colors and are typically very small when they’re nymphs.

They’re a common pest, especially for indoor Fukien tea bonsai.

They’re often described as:

  • Tiny black bugs
  • Small brown bugs
  • Tiny white bugs

Aphids can range from a variety of different colors also:

So if you see a bunch of tiny bugs crawling around on your bonsai tree that fits any of those colors, you probably have aphids.

Aphids are prevalent and are often difficult to control. They’re a destructive pest that is commonly found in many different plants, such as tomatoes, basil, cabbage, potato, peach, bean, and other fruits and vegetables.

Here are some of the most effective ways to control aphids on your bonsai.

Use soapy water

Soapy water is the most popular DIY home remedy to get rid of aphids. It’s safe, natural, and very cheap to make.

You very likely already have all the necessary ingredients to make this at home. It’s also relatively safe for bonsai plants as long as you first test the spray in a controlled spot.

This means to test it on a single leaf and wait a few days to check for any burning or damage. If the plant seems okay, then apply the aphid killer to the entire tree.

How to make DIY insecticide for aphids

Next, we’ll cover the steps to make the solution at home. If it doesn’t work for you at first, play around with the mixture concentrations.

Then use what works best and scale it up!

What you’ll need:

  • Tablespoon of dish detergent
  • 3 cups of water
  • Spray bottle

How to make it:

  1. Add the water into the spray bottle.
  2. Add the dish soap to the water.
  3. Gently swirl until the dish soap diffuses into the water.

How to use it:

  • Spray the mixture directly onto the tiny bugs and let it sit for 8 minutes.
  • Be sure to spray under the leaves on the branches, stems, and anywhere else they may be hiding.
  • Remove the mixture afterward by using a paper napkin, cotton ball, or sponge.
  • Wipe up any excess soapy water and dead aphids to prevent further pests from feeding on them.

Notes:

  • Again, be sure you test this mixture on a single leaf before you apply it to the entire bonsai plant.
  • You can adjust the soap concentration as needed:
    • If you notice plant burning, use less soap and more water.
    • If you notice the aphids are being killed, use more soap and less water.
  • You’ll have to play around and see which one works best for your situation.
  • Don’t spray it directly onto the soil, as the solution will be hard to remove.
  • You can also use a small cotton ball or cotton swab to apply the mixture rather than spraying it directly. This allows you more control over where the spray goes!

Check out this video for tips on handling these pests:

Neem oil

Neem oil is a natural and organic way to kill spider mites and a host of other pests. It works against ticks, larvae, aphids, whiteflies, spiders, moths, and even Japanese beetles).

You’ll often find neem oil available as a “fungicide and miticide” in 70% concentration. Opt for one that’s organic and OMRI listed.

The oil comes from neem trees (Azadirachta indica).

The active ingredient is Azadirachtin for most mixtures. It’s been used as an organic repellent and also disrupts feeding and egg production in pests.

Neem oil has also been recognized by the EPA:

“Based on the data reviewed by EPA, Cold Pressed Neem Oil will not cause adverse effects to humans and other nontarget organisms when used according to label directions. “

Cold Pressed Neem Oil Fact Sheet

How to use neem oil

You can utilize this by buying a bottle of it in pure form. Neem oil also only kills pests, but not beneficial bugs like ladybugs and bees.

Neem oil can be purchased through specialty nurseries. Add a few drops to a cup of water. Dip a cotton swab into it. Then scrub the bonsai with it.

You’ll want to test this in an inconspicuous area first because it may burn the plant. If it does, add more water or use less neem oil until the bonsai accents it.

After you apply the oil to the plant, it’ll kill the spider mites. Be sure to rinse it off with running water or scrub it with a sponge.

Apply it after sunset

Also, don’t apply the oil when the sun is out (if your bonsai receives direct sunlight). Sunlight will react with the neem oil and could overheat the plant.

Follow all directions as labeled on the container. When used properly, neem oil is an effective way to get rid of pests on your bonsai plant.

Attract ladybugs

Ladybugs will eat spider mites and aphids, both of which are bonsai pests. Most of the US has ladybugs native to each state.

So you can easily attract more of them to help control the spider mite population.

If you don’t have ladybugs present, you can order them online and have them shipped to your home.

Buy a miniature greenhouse and place the bonsai plant in there.

Then release the ladybugs inside. They’ll fly around and eat up most of the pests on your plant. Keep your bonsai in there for a few weeks until you notice no more mites, whiteflies, and aphids.

They also won’t harm your plant provided that you have enough food for them. This is probably one of the easiest methods.

You don’t need to do much other than set up the greenhouse and order the ladybugs.

After that, they take care of everything else!

How to get rid of whiteflies on a bonsai tree

Whiteflies are another bug often found on bonsai trees. These flies are tiny but still visible.

They appear as tiny triangles that fly around when disturb. They’re very quick but clumsy and easy to kill.

You’ll often see a bunch of white eggs on the bottom of leaves on your bonsai tree. Or you may notice a sticky substance. Both of these are signs of whiteflies

But correlation does not mean causation!

Whiteflies make your bonsai sticky

Even though they have the name “whitefly,” they’re actually more like aphids than anything. They fly around on your bonsai and eat the leaves and extract nutrients.

Adult whiteflies lay eggs on the bottom of leaves which develop into a full adult in just 16 days.

They can lay hundreds of eggs, which are visible in a circular pattern. They can quickly reproduce to the thousands if there are enough resources available.

Most whiteflies are present around warmer climates. They eat fruits, veggies, and ornamental plants (like your bonsai tree).

Honeydew trails bring fungus and mold

The extra nutrients from the leaves and leave behind a trail of honeydew.

This sticky substance will eventually develop into a black fungus with a mold-like appearance.

This substance is why your bonsai tree is sticky.

The honeydew will cover the attacked plant to where it can no longer photosynthesize. In other words, the plant can’t produce food and will start to wilt.

If you identify that you have whiteflies on your basil, here’s what you do.

Remove the affected leaves

The first thing you must do is prune all the leaves that have whitefly activity.

Remove any leaves where you see whiteflies eating, whitefly eggs, or leaves that appear to be wilted. This will kill a large proportion of their population.

Be sure to dispose of the leaves. But first, dip them in a cup of rubbing alcohol or dish soap to kill whiteflies.

Use sticky traps

Whiteflies will hover all around the bonsai and will appear as a flurry blur when you approach them.

You can place small sticky traps around your basil plant to catch and kill them. You can buy these traps commercially or make them yourself.

Apply DIY insecticidal soap

You can make your own insecticidal soap at home by adding a few tablespoons of dish soap to a gallon of water.

Just spray it directly on to the plant to kill them. Make sure you target all the areas where they hide (under the leaves). Rinse your plant after you apply the soap to get rid of the soap.

Don’t leave the dish soap mixture on your bonsai as it can harm the plant if you don’t rinse it off. Be sure to apply a small amount to just a small area first to check for damage.

Rinse with water

Use a hose and blast them off your plant with a powerful stream. This is best done after you apply a layer of insecticidal soap.

This way, you remove any dead whiteflies and you clean up any excess soap on your plant. The hose stream will remove many pests and works well for many bugs on bonsai plants.

Use neem oil

Just like many of the other pests on this page, you can use neem oil to kill whiteflies. Use neem oil as directed to prevent burning. You can buy this stuff at specialty stores.

Buy the organic version with 70% concentration and follow the directions.

Parasitic wasps

There are wasps that you can use to prey on the whiteflies.

These wasps don’t sting and are commonly used for pest control. You can purchase them online and release them into a small greenhouse.

Place your bonsai plant in there and let the wasps do their work. Other bugs that eat whiteflies are lacewings and beetles.

Some of the most effective parasitic wasps are:

You can buy them or attract them to your yard natively.

How to attract parasitic wasps

If you live in an area where these wasps are present, here are a few tips on attracting them:

Plant flowers. Use a variety of flowers so the wasps have plenty of nectar and pollen. Some of the common flowers and plants you can use are dill plants, cilantro, daisies, alyssum, parsley, and alyssum.

Provide plenty of water. They need water. So use small, shallow containers to supply them with plenty of it. You can use small tubs, pools, or birdbaths.

Use small river rocks that stick above the water level so the wasps have somewhere to land. This will allow them to drink and attract them to your yard.

  • If your bonsai plant is already outdoors, place it near these areas so the parasitic wasps can eat the bugs on your plant.
  • If you’re still growing the plant indoors, you can order wasp eggs online and hatch them in a greenhouse. Then place your bonsai in there with the eggs before they hatch.

Right when they emerge, they’ll start feeding on your pests. You can also buy adult wasps if you don’t want to hatch the eggs.

I hope this helps you control the whitefly bugs on your bonsai. I wrote a little more for this particular pest because there’s no dedicated guide (yet) for getting rid of them that I could link to.

How to get rid of ants in bonsai

Ants on your bonsai are probably from the soot honeydew that the whiteflies left behind.

Ants aren’t generally attracted to bonsai plants.

But the sweet-scented honeydew mold from the whiteflies will attract ants. This then means you’ll have two pests to deal with. The whiteflies who are producing the honeydew.

Ants and whiteflies

When you have ants and whiteflies together, you’ll then have a real mess to clean up.

You’ll often see both of these pests at the same time if you leave them alone. The whiteflies will attract ants that will farm the honeydew and carry the mold back to their colony.

This results in a plant with whiteflies eating the leaves, ants eating the fungus, and aphids eating both.

If you see ants, you probably have whiteflies also.

To get rid of ants, you’ll have to get rid of whiteflies. There’s no point in killing just the ants because they’ll keep coming back because of the honeydew.

Get rid of the whiteflies first

But if you kill the whiteflies, then there’s no secretion for the ants. So don’t worry about the ants.

Focus on the whiteflies. If you have ants, there are likely whiteflies present. You may have to inspect your bonsai carefully to see them.

If you don’t see any whiteflies, but you do have ants, you can use the common methods outlined in this article to control them. Use DIY dish soap, essential oils, and sticky traps.

These should kill the ants.

But you want to see why the ants are there in the first place. Or else there’s no point in getting rid of the ants if you don’t get rid of the food prices!

How to get rid fungus gnats

Fungus gnats are prevalent and annoying little pests that may seem like they sprung out of nowhere.

These gnats will infest your soil, especially if it’s humid and moist.

They often appear in new bags of soil straight from the manufacturer.

Or they may just be wandering around and happen to come across your bonsai’s soil.

They’re prevalent

Whatever the case, they’re a difficult pest to control because they multiply so quickly. And they adapt to many different conditions.

They lay their eggs in moist soil with plenty of nutrients. When the larvae hatch, they’ll appear as tiny white worms in your soil.

These worms may harm your bonsai if they settle around the roots, but they tend to ignore the leaves.

Over time, the worms will evolve into gnats and this is when they’ll start flying around. You want to kill them before they lay another round of eggs to stop the cycle.

See also:  Why Do Bees Swarm? How Honey Bees Move Their Hives

If you have fungus gnats in your potted bonsai, you have a few options:

  • Replace all the soil with new soil
  • Bake the current soil and reuse it again

The former option would probably be the easiest one. Just buy another bag of whatever soil you were using earlier and completely replace it.

Replace the soil

You’ll have to uproot your plant, and that’s a whole process in and of itself.

When you carefully remove your bonsai tree from the soil, be sure to completely wash and kill any fungus gnats still present in the pot. This means completely emptying out any soil remaining in the pot.

You should also fill it up with soapy water and let it sit for a few minutes to kill off any gnats in the pot.

You can also use hot water to fully cleanse the planter. If you have drain holes, either plug them or just rinse the pot a few times.

You’ll want to ensure that you kill all the remaining tiny gnats in your soil. There’s no point in replacing the soil if there are still gnats remaining. They’ll just infest the newly added soil anyway.

You’ll want to do the same for the bonsai tree itself. Check for soil clumps, bugs, and other pests stuck on the roots and leaves. Rinse it off with water and clean it up.

Bake the soil

The other option is to uproot the bonsai, and then take all the soil and bake it.

Bake it. In your oven.

This will kill the fungus gnats and other pests in the soil. The only tradeoff is that it’s a lot of work and may make your kitchen smell for a week.

How to bake your soil

After you bake it, you can just replant the bonsai back into the same soil. There’s no absolute temperature, but the rule-of-thumb seems to be 200F for 30 minutes.

You can line your oven-safe baking pan with a layer of aluminum foil and then place the soil on it.

Clean the container and plant

Be sure to also rinse the container to kill all the remaining gnats or bugs still stuck to it.

Do the same for the actual tree. Give it a rinse to rinse off all the bugs that are stuck to it. Watch out for clumps of soil as the gnats can hide in these clumps.

Check the container and the bonsai roots for these soil clumps.

After you’re done, just replace the bonsai into the same soil and you should be good to go.

Prevent future fungus gnats

If you see gnats show up again, this means that:

  • The soil didn’t get enough oven time
  • There were some bugs stuck to the planter
  • There were some bugs stuck to the bonsai
  • More bugs migrated into the newly replanted soil

Following these steps should safely get rid of fungus gnats and other pests in the bonsai soil.

You can repeat this as often as necessary, but you shouldn’t have to do it that much.

Maybe once per year. It’s also good to do because it’ll help eliminate any pests under the soil around the roots. And it’ll help muscle your soil, so it’s practical.

This is why you should always use well-draining soil and never overwater. Overwatering leads to moisture buildup, which attracts pests like fungus into your bonsai soil.

Fukien tea pests

Many of these pests appear on Fukien tea bonsais, so you should be okay if you follow the methods here.

Fukien tea, a common indoor basil plant, tends to attract bugs like aphids, mites, and whiteflies. You can use the DIY home remedies here as shown.

But be sure you tone it down for Fukien tea bonsais when they’re small and sensitive.

When the bonsai Fukien tea plant is still indoors, it’s less susceptible to bugs. But once you move it outdoors, this is when they start to become a real problem with pests.

Do your research

No matter which specific species on bonsai you have, be sure to do the research to control the bugs correctly.

The methods outlined here are effective against most pests for the common bonsai species:

  • Chinese elm
  • Japanese maple
  • Ficus retusa
  • Privet
  • Jade
  • Fuchsia
  • Fig tree
  • Olive
  • Snow rose
  • Juniper
  • Dwarf pomegranate
  • Zelkova
  • Hornbeam and beech
  • Wisteria
  • Crabapple
  • Oak, magnolia stellata
  • Birch
  • Flame tree
  • Celtis
  • Jacaranda
  • Boxwood
  • Acer buergerianum
  • Weeping fig
  • Money tree
  • Serissa foetida

For more rare types, you may want to do some more reading so you don’t damage the tree.

Regardless of which bonsai you’re growing, be sure to always test in a small area and wait two days before proceeding.

You’ll want to see what kind of damage, burning, or scalding shows up.

Did you get rid of the bugs on your bonsai tree?

That’s all I’ve got for you.

By now, you should have everything you need to know to get rid of the pests on your bonsai.

This article covers the most common pests you’ll ever encounter. But there’s always the off-chance that you’re dealing with some other bug.

If this is you, just proceed with any of the methods on this list.

Literally. Any of them. If you can’t identify the pest on your tree, just blindly try a method on this page as most they’re all safe for bonsai trees.

(Of course, do your test on a single leaf first.)

Try a few DIY home remedies

See which one works. Chances are that you’ll find one that kills whatever pest you have.

Even if you have no idea what the bug actually is.

Although bonsai trees do attract pests, they’re not nearly as bad as some other plants like veggies and fruits.

Thus, they’re relatively easy to care for and the vast majority of bonsai owners never deal with any pests.

If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Or if you’re a bonsai owner who’s dealt with these pests before, leave your wisdom for others!

Also, let me know if you found this guide to be helpful so I can make more! Consider telling a fellow bonsai owner =]!

Thanks for reading.

Essential oils

There are a few essential oils you can use to control aphids on your bonsai tree.

The most effective ones are:

How to make the spray:

  1. To make the spray, all you need to do is add a few drops of the oil into a spray bottle. Typically 8-12 drops should be enough.
  2. Fill the rest with water (at least 1 cup).
  3. Then spray it onto the aphids to kill them.
  4. Wipe up the excess oils on your tree after you’re done.

Any of these essential oils should work well. You can also combine them together if needed, but be sure to adjust your amount of oil drops accordingly.

Again, be sure to test it on a single leaf before you apply it to the whole plant.

You can reduce the concentration of drops or add more water if your leaves burn.

Plant garlic

Aphids seem to hate the smell of garlic. You can plant garden garlic (Allium sativum) next to your bonsai tree to reduce the number of aphids.

You don’t have to do this forever- just temporarily until your aphid problem is taken care of.

Garlic clove repellent

If you don’t want to plant garlic, you can just cut up a clove of garlic and sprinkle it around the plant roots.

Place the garlic cloves direction the soil and just leave them there.

Remove them and replace them when they start to rot. This will act as a natural deterrent for aphids.

Garlic spray

You can also mince garlic and put it into a spray bottle with water.

Let it sit for a few days until it smells like garlic water. Then spray this water onto the aphids directly.

This shouldn’t harm your bonsai leaves, but you can still test it on a single leaf to be sure. Wait 48 hours then check on the leaf. If it’s okay, apply directly on the aphids to kill them.

Wipe off any excess garlic spray after you apply. Repeat until the aphids are no longer visible on your bonsai tree.

These tips should get you started on getting rid of the aphids on your plants.

You can check out this comprehensive guide on controlling aphids if you need more ways to get rid of them. You can also leave a comment below for assistance!

How to get rid of spider mites on a bonsai tree

Spider mites are another common pest that’s often found on bonsai trees.

Because most people aren’t familiar with them, they may be reported as “tiny white” or “tiny black” bugs. They’re almost microscopic in size and you’ll have to grab a piece of white paper to see them.

Checking for spider mites

Choose a paper color that’s opposite to the bug. Then shake the leaf where you see them over the paper so they fall onto it.

From there, you can see them better because of the color contrast.

Spider mites will quickly destroy bonsai leaves if ignored. They have the ability to multiply quickly and move from leaf to stem to leaf within days.

They pierce the bonsai plant with their mouthparts. Then they destroy the stomata, which prevents the plant from holding water. Over time, this will kill the bonsai.

So you need to act quickly.

Spider mites have a variety of colors, but the most common ones are red, white, black, and spruce mites.

All of these can be eliminated in the same fashion.

Here are two ways you can try at home to get rid of them from your bonsai plant. Mites are another common pest for Fukien tea bonsai plants.

Check out this video for tips on handling these pests:

Neem oil

Neem oil is a natural and organic way to kill spider mites and a host of other pests. It works against ticks, larvae, aphids, whiteflies, spiders, moths, and even Japanese beetles).

You’ll often find neem oil available as a “fungicide and miticide” in 70% concentration. Opt for one that’s organic and OMRI listed.

The oil comes from neem trees (Azadirachta indica).

The active ingredient is Azadirachtin for most mixtures. It’s been used as an organic repellent and also disrupts feeding and egg production in pests.

Neem oil has also been recognized by the EPA:

“Based on the data reviewed by EPA, Cold Pressed Neem Oil will not cause adverse effects to humans and other nontarget organisms when used according to label directions. “

Cold Pressed Neem Oil Fact Sheet

How to use neem oil

You can utilize this by buying a bottle of it in pure form. Neem oil also only kills pests, but not beneficial bugs like ladybugs and bees.

Neem oil can be purchased through specialty nurseries. Add a few drops to a cup of water. Dip a cotton swab into it. Then scrub the bonsai with it.

You’ll want to test this in an inconspicuous area first because it may burn the plant. If it does, add more water or use less neem oil until the bonsai accents it.

After you apply the oil to the plant, it’ll kill the spider mites. Be sure to rinse it off with running water or scrub it with a sponge.

Apply it after sunset

Also, don’t apply the oil when the sun is out (if your bonsai receives direct sunlight). Sunlight will react with the neem oil and could overheat the plant.

Follow all directions as labeled on the container. When used properly, neem oil is an effective way to get rid of pests on your bonsai plant.

Attract ladybugs

Ladybugs will eat spider mites and aphids, both of which are bonsai pests. Most of the US has ladybugs native to each state.

So you can easily attract more of them to help control the spider mite population.

If you don’t have ladybugs present, you can order them online and have them shipped to your home.

Buy a miniature greenhouse and place the bonsai plant in there.

Then release the ladybugs inside. They’ll fly around and eat up most of the pests on your plant. Keep your bonsai in there for a few weeks until you notice no more mites, whiteflies, and aphids.

They also won’t harm your plant provided that you have enough food for them. This is probably one of the easiest methods.

You don’t need to do much other than set up the greenhouse and order the ladybugs.

After that, they take care of everything else!

How to get rid of whiteflies on a bonsai tree

Whiteflies are another bug often found on bonsai trees. These flies are tiny but still visible.

They appear as tiny triangles that fly around when disturb. They’re very quick but clumsy and easy to kill.

You’ll often see a bunch of white eggs on the bottom of leaves on your bonsai tree. Or you may notice a sticky substance. Both of these are signs of whiteflies

But correlation does not mean causation!

Whiteflies make your bonsai sticky

Even though they have the name “whitefly,” they’re actually more like aphids than anything. They fly around on your bonsai and eat the leaves and extract nutrients.

Adult whiteflies lay eggs on the bottom of leaves which develop into a full adult in just 16 days.

They can lay hundreds of eggs, which are visible in a circular pattern. They can quickly reproduce to the thousands if there are enough resources available.

Most whiteflies are present around warmer climates. They eat fruits, veggies, and ornamental plants (like your bonsai tree).

Honeydew trails bring fungus and mold

The extra nutrients from the leaves and leave behind a trail of honeydew.

This sticky substance will eventually develop into a black fungus with a mold-like appearance.

This substance is why your bonsai tree is sticky.

The honeydew will cover the attacked plant to where it can no longer photosynthesize. In other words, the plant can’t produce food and will start to wilt.

See also:  How Fleas Work, HowStuffWorks

If you identify that you have whiteflies on your basil, here’s what you do.

Remove the affected leaves

The first thing you must do is prune all the leaves that have whitefly activity.

Remove any leaves where you see whiteflies eating, whitefly eggs, or leaves that appear to be wilted. This will kill a large proportion of their population.

Be sure to dispose of the leaves. But first, dip them in a cup of rubbing alcohol or dish soap to kill whiteflies.

Use sticky traps

Whiteflies will hover all around the bonsai and will appear as a flurry blur when you approach them.

You can place small sticky traps around your basil plant to catch and kill them. You can buy these traps commercially or make them yourself.

Apply DIY insecticidal soap

You can make your own insecticidal soap at home by adding a few tablespoons of dish soap to a gallon of water.

Just spray it directly on to the plant to kill them. Make sure you target all the areas where they hide (under the leaves). Rinse your plant after you apply the soap to get rid of the soap.

Don’t leave the dish soap mixture on your bonsai as it can harm the plant if you don’t rinse it off. Be sure to apply a small amount to just a small area first to check for damage.

Rinse with water

Use a hose and blast them off your plant with a powerful stream. This is best done after you apply a layer of insecticidal soap.

This way, you remove any dead whiteflies and you clean up any excess soap on your plant. The hose stream will remove many pests and works well for many bugs on bonsai plants.

Use neem oil

Just like many of the other pests on this page, you can use neem oil to kill whiteflies. Use neem oil as directed to prevent burning. You can buy this stuff at specialty stores.

Buy the organic version with 70% concentration and follow the directions.

Parasitic wasps

There are wasps that you can use to prey on the whiteflies.

These wasps don’t sting and are commonly used for pest control. You can purchase them online and release them into a small greenhouse.

Place your bonsai plant in there and let the wasps do their work. Other bugs that eat whiteflies are lacewings and beetles.

Some of the most effective parasitic wasps are:

You can buy them or attract them to your yard natively.

How to attract parasitic wasps

If you live in an area where these wasps are present, here are a few tips on attracting them:

Plant flowers. Use a variety of flowers so the wasps have plenty of nectar and pollen. Some of the common flowers and plants you can use are dill plants, cilantro, daisies, alyssum, parsley, and alyssum.

Provide plenty of water. They need water. So use small, shallow containers to supply them with plenty of it. You can use small tubs, pools, or birdbaths.

Use small river rocks that stick above the water level so the wasps have somewhere to land. This will allow them to drink and attract them to your yard.

  • If your bonsai plant is already outdoors, place it near these areas so the parasitic wasps can eat the bugs on your plant.
  • If you’re still growing the plant indoors, you can order wasp eggs online and hatch them in a greenhouse. Then place your bonsai in there with the eggs before they hatch.

Right when they emerge, they’ll start feeding on your pests. You can also buy adult wasps if you don’t want to hatch the eggs.

I hope this helps you control the whitefly bugs on your bonsai. I wrote a little more for this particular pest because there’s no dedicated guide (yet) for getting rid of them that I could link to.

How to get rid of ants in bonsai

Ants on your bonsai are probably from the soot honeydew that the whiteflies left behind.

Ants aren’t generally attracted to bonsai plants.

But the sweet-scented honeydew mold from the whiteflies will attract ants. This then means you’ll have two pests to deal with. The whiteflies who are producing the honeydew.

Ants and whiteflies

When you have ants and whiteflies together, you’ll then have a real mess to clean up.

You’ll often see both of these pests at the same time if you leave them alone. The whiteflies will attract ants that will farm the honeydew and carry the mold back to their colony.

This results in a plant with whiteflies eating the leaves, ants eating the fungus, and aphids eating both.

If you see ants, you probably have whiteflies also.

To get rid of ants, you’ll have to get rid of whiteflies. There’s no point in killing just the ants because they’ll keep coming back because of the honeydew.

Get rid of the whiteflies first

But if you kill the whiteflies, then there’s no secretion for the ants. So don’t worry about the ants.

Focus on the whiteflies. If you have ants, there are likely whiteflies present. You may have to inspect your bonsai carefully to see them.

If you don’t see any whiteflies, but you do have ants, you can use the common methods outlined in this article to control them. Use DIY dish soap, essential oils, and sticky traps.

These should kill the ants.

But you want to see why the ants are there in the first place. Or else there’s no point in getting rid of the ants if you don’t get rid of the food prices!

How to get rid fungus gnats

Fungus gnats are prevalent and annoying little pests that may seem like they sprung out of nowhere.

These gnats will infest your soil, especially if it’s humid and moist.

They often appear in new bags of soil straight from the manufacturer.

Or they may just be wandering around and happen to come across your bonsai’s soil.

They’re prevalent

Whatever the case, they’re a difficult pest to control because they multiply so quickly. And they adapt to many different conditions.

They lay their eggs in moist soil with plenty of nutrients. When the larvae hatch, they’ll appear as tiny white worms in your soil.

These worms may harm your bonsai if they settle around the roots, but they tend to ignore the leaves.

Over time, the worms will evolve into gnats and this is when they’ll start flying around. You want to kill them before they lay another round of eggs to stop the cycle.

If you have fungus gnats in your potted bonsai, you have a few options:

  • Replace all the soil with new soil
  • Bake the current soil and reuse it again

The former option would probably be the easiest one. Just buy another bag of whatever soil you were using earlier and completely replace it.

Replace the soil

You’ll have to uproot your plant, and that’s a whole process in and of itself.

When you carefully remove your bonsai tree from the soil, be sure to completely wash and kill any fungus gnats still present in the pot. This means completely emptying out any soil remaining in the pot.

You should also fill it up with soapy water and let it sit for a few minutes to kill off any gnats in the pot.

You can also use hot water to fully cleanse the planter. If you have drain holes, either plug them or just rinse the pot a few times.

You’ll want to ensure that you kill all the remaining tiny gnats in your soil. There’s no point in replacing the soil if there are still gnats remaining. They’ll just infest the newly added soil anyway.

You’ll want to do the same for the bonsai tree itself. Check for soil clumps, bugs, and other pests stuck on the roots and leaves. Rinse it off with water and clean it up.

Bake the soil

The other option is to uproot the bonsai, and then take all the soil and bake it.

Bake it. In your oven.

This will kill the fungus gnats and other pests in the soil. The only tradeoff is that it’s a lot of work and may make your kitchen smell for a week.

How to bake your soil

After you bake it, you can just replant the bonsai back into the same soil. There’s no absolute temperature, but the rule-of-thumb seems to be 200F for 30 minutes.

You can line your oven-safe baking pan with a layer of aluminum foil and then place the soil on it.

Clean the container and plant

Be sure to also rinse the container to kill all the remaining gnats or bugs still stuck to it.

Do the same for the actual tree. Give it a rinse to rinse off all the bugs that are stuck to it. Watch out for clumps of soil as the gnats can hide in these clumps.

Check the container and the bonsai roots for these soil clumps.

After you’re done, just replace the bonsai into the same soil and you should be good to go.

Prevent future fungus gnats

If you see gnats show up again, this means that:

  • The soil didn’t get enough oven time
  • There were some bugs stuck to the planter
  • There were some bugs stuck to the bonsai
  • More bugs migrated into the newly replanted soil

Following these steps should safely get rid of fungus gnats and other pests in the bonsai soil.

You can repeat this as often as necessary, but you shouldn’t have to do it that much.

Maybe once per year. It’s also good to do because it’ll help eliminate any pests under the soil around the roots. And it’ll help muscle your soil, so it’s practical.

This is why you should always use well-draining soil and never overwater. Overwatering leads to moisture buildup, which attracts pests like fungus into your bonsai soil.

Fukien tea pests

Many of these pests appear on Fukien tea bonsais, so you should be okay if you follow the methods here.

Fukien tea, a common indoor basil plant, tends to attract bugs like aphids, mites, and whiteflies. You can use the DIY home remedies here as shown.

But be sure you tone it down for Fukien tea bonsais when they’re small and sensitive.

When the bonsai Fukien tea plant is still indoors, it’s less susceptible to bugs. But once you move it outdoors, this is when they start to become a real problem with pests.

Do your research

No matter which specific species on bonsai you have, be sure to do the research to control the bugs correctly.

The methods outlined here are effective against most pests for the common bonsai species:

  • Chinese elm
  • Japanese maple
  • Ficus retusa
  • Privet
  • Jade
  • Fuchsia
  • Fig tree
  • Olive
  • Snow rose
  • Juniper
  • Dwarf pomegranate
  • Zelkova
  • Hornbeam and beech
  • Wisteria
  • Crabapple
  • Oak, magnolia stellata
  • Birch
  • Flame tree
  • Celtis
  • Jacaranda
  • Boxwood
  • Acer buergerianum
  • Weeping fig
  • Money tree
  • Serissa foetida

For more rare types, you may want to do some more reading so you don’t damage the tree.

Regardless of which bonsai you’re growing, be sure to always test in a small area and wait two days before proceeding.

You’ll want to see what kind of damage, burning, or scalding shows up.

Did you get rid of the bugs on your bonsai tree?

That’s all I’ve got for you.

By now, you should have everything you need to know to get rid of the pests on your bonsai.

This article covers the most common pests you’ll ever encounter. But there’s always the off-chance that you’re dealing with some other bug.

If this is you, just proceed with any of the methods on this list.

Literally. Any of them. If you can’t identify the pest on your tree, just blindly try a method on this page as most they’re all safe for bonsai trees.

(Of course, do your test on a single leaf first.)

Try a few DIY home remedies

See which one works. Chances are that you’ll find one that kills whatever pest you have.

Even if you have no idea what the bug actually is.

Although bonsai trees do attract pests, they’re not nearly as bad as some other plants like veggies and fruits.

Thus, they’re relatively easy to care for and the vast majority of bonsai owners never deal with any pests.

If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Or if you’re a bonsai owner who’s dealt with these pests before, leave your wisdom for others!

Also, let me know if you found this guide to be helpful so I can make more! Consider telling a fellow bonsai owner =]!

Thanks for reading.

Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.

I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).

Fight nature with nature.

More DIY Pest Control Guides

I see you have a pest problem.

I created this site to offer my 8 years of natural pest control experience to the public.

I started off with a nasty fly problem, and was very interested in finding ways to get rid of them without having to use harmful chemicals and pesticides.

Turns out, there are a ton of DIY home remedies you can do for free (or damn close to free) without having to spend money on expensive and dangerous chemicals.

So then I created this site to share everything I’ve learned over the years (and continuing to learn)- natural solutions that are proven to work against the bug that’s bugging you!

If you have a pest problem that’s not covered here, feel free to contact me and let me know. I may be able to help you out!

bugwiz.com

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