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Sadly, part of the parcel of keeping bonsai is dealing with outbreaks. Scale, fungal infection, and general bugs swarming your plant from time to time are all too regular occurrences. That being said one of the most common and most dangerous types of bugs that can infect bonsai are Spider Mites. So how exactly can you get rid of spider mites on bonsai?
Fill a spray bottle with 30 ounces of water and one tablespoon of anti-bacterial liquid soap. Spray your bonsai thoroughly to remove spider mites. To prevent future outbreaks, inspect your bonsai for signs regularly and consider investing in insecticide and neem oil.
So is this the best method of getting rid of spider mites? And why is it important to get rid of spider mites? Keep reading to find out more!
Just a quick heads up, over the past three years of running Plantpaladin, hundreds of people have asked for product recommendations. As such, You can find my favorite indoor bonsai tree here (link takes you to Bonsaiboy), my favorite outdoor bonsai tree (link takes you to Bonsaiboy), or have a look at all the products I recommend here.
How to get rid of spider mites on bonsai
Spider mites are one of the most challenging pests any bonsai owner has to face, and with good reason, leaving these pests alone can wreak havoc on your plant, essentially killing the progress you’ve made with your tree.
The good news is that there are multiple methods to help remove spider mites from your bonsai, which include:
- Using a spray bottle and Soap
- Rubbing alcohol method
- Tapping them off
- Using insecticide
- Purchasing predatory mites
- Pressure spray model
Let’s explore these below:
Use a spray bottle and soap
So this is possibly the most common and well-known method of removing spider mites from your bonsai.
It’s relatively straightforward and works best when you first notice the spider mites.
To do this, use the following:
- Remove your bonsai plant from surrounding plants so they do not get infected.
- Get a spray bottle and fill it up with around 30oz of water.
- Then pour one tablespoon of liquid soap or washing-up liquid into the bottle.
- Attach the nozzle and shake until your mixture combined.
- Thoroughly spray your bonsai all over, and the oil in the washing-up liquid should kill the mites that are causing your problems.
Liquid soap that kills 99.9% of bacteria works best for this option, and using a spray bottle will mean you should be able to get into all hard-to-reach areas.
That being said, their spider mites can be tricky little bugs, and so sometimes other options might be required.
Rubbing alcohol method
Any long-time readers of my blog will know that I love this method – it’s actually what I use to retreat much tougher pests like Scale which can severely damage your bonsai.
To follow the rubbing alcohol method then:
- Use 70% rubbing alcohol and pour it into a cotton ball
- Use the cotton ball to wipe down your plant
- It is important that you wipe down all the common places, such as the leaves but also use things like the underside, the steps, and the topsoil, all of which can be breeding grounds for spider mites
- Once you have wiped down the bonsai, there will still be some harder-to-reach areas- in this instance, use a cotton swab with the rubbing alcohol to get to these hard-to-reach spots, such as between your branches
- Then in a spray bottle, make the same solution of liquid soap and water we talked about in the previous step but add one teaspoon of rubbing alcohol to the mixture and spray your plant until wet to the tough
- Leave your bonsai to dry for 24 hours, and then repeat the process
- This should then get rid of the toughest infestations of spider mites.
- You can then get a paper towel and wipe down your pot, as eggs and outlier spider mites can sometimes reside here too.
Tap them off
Now if your spider mite infestation is in its early stages and you can only see one or two, another super simple method you can follow is simply tapping them off.
To follow this step:
- Get a piece of paper and fold it in half so there is a clear fold
- Place the paper underneath where your spider mite is and tap it off from your plant
- This works especially well if your spider mite tends to end up in places like under the leaves of your plant.
Use pesticide or insecticide
So we finally came to it, the nuclear option!
Now whilst some of you might have some hang-ups around using pesticides or insecticides for damaging your plants, this is easily one of the most common methods of dealing with insect and pest outbreaks on your bonsai.
My recommendation has to be the Ortho VB00029 ( link takes you to Amazon) – it even comes with a free sprayer included making the entire process a lot simpler.
Be warned, however, if you find that you tend to get spider mites regularly then you may want to avoid using this method – spider mites breed notoriously quickly, with one female able to lay around 20 eggs per day.
This can mean that the mites can adapt very quickly to their environment rendering some insecticides mute if used too frequently.
“Spider Mites are one of the most commons infestations bonsais can get. Failing to treat them can result in the death of your plant”
Purchase predatory mites
Have you ever seen that episode of The Simpsons where they get a bunch of snakes to deal with the reptile infestation and then a bunch of mongooses to deal with the snakes?
I know what you‘re thinking; how is investing in more pests going to solve the problem?
Well, you see, the thing is, some animals in the insect and arachnid kingdom are actually beneficial – think of the humble house spider, which takes care of a lot of the pests we have lurking around in our house.
The same goes for your bonsai, so if you want to avoid spraying your bonsai with soap or chemicals, then this could be the option for you.
So what type of bug works best for this?
Simply put phytoseiulus persimilis
These predatory mites actively seek out spider mites in stages of their life cycle and gobble them up.
Word of warning, however, you do not want to use these if you have used any chemicals on your plants in the past two weeks or so.
Okay, I take it back – this is the nuclear option!
One surprisingly effective thing against spider mites is using power water – it’s why spray bottles work so well.
If then, you find that your bonsai has been infected to the point where you need to take some drastic action using something like a jetwash on your bonsai works surprisingly well.
The only problem, however, is if your bonsai can take it, after all, the jet spray is usually used as a way of getting rid of tough stains so you want to make sure that your bonsai won’t be damaged on the process.
A typical household use pressure washers work best for this but for my money there is no better option out there than the Sun Joe SPX3000 ( link takes you to Amazon) – it comes with a guarantee but also doesn’t have enough pressure that it will demolish your bonsai.
Once this has been done it’s important to inspect your plant a few times per week to make sure you don’t have any lagging spider mites left behind.
What are spider mites?
So we have covered a lot of the ways to deal with spider mites but not exactly what spider mites are.
Spider mites are species of mites that are seen as pests. They feed on thousands of species on plants, generally on the leaves breaking the plant cell walls often causing irreversible damage to said plants.
Spider mites have a red/ brown coloration to them and often spin silky webs as a preventative measure, often covering the plants they reside in with them.
Spider mites typically live for 2 to 4 weeks, with females being able to lay 20 eggs per day. Spider mites hatch in about 3 days and can become sexually mature in 5.
How to identify spider mites on your bonsai?
Silvery dots or stippling on the leaves of your plant, small delicate webs on your plant stems, and tiny white and brown dots scattered throughout are surefire signs of spider mites. Spider mite eggs on your plant bark or foliage and discolored leaves are also signs that you may have a spider mite outbreak.
What happens if you do not remove spider mites?
Spider mites left unchecked, can damage and eventually kill your plants by breaking down and feeding off your plant cells. Failure to remove spider mites from your plant can also lead to the mites infecting other plants further exacerbating the problem.
Are spider mites more common in indoor or outdoor plants?
Whilst spider mites are common in both outdoor and indoor plants, spider mites thrive in temperatures around 27 degrees Celsius meaning that they are more frequent in indoor species of plants as well as in the summer months
How to set up a schedule to deal with spider mites?
So we know how to deal with spider mites and what signs to look out for but how do we prevent our healthy bonsais from getting these in the future?
One of the best options is to set up a regular routine to check on your plants.
Personally, I like to do this at least once per week when I am pruning my Bonsai.
I found that investing in something like Neem oil (link takes you to my recommendation on Amazon) is a brilliant option and using it on your plants regularly once per week is a surefire way to protect your plants from scale, pests, and of course spider mites.
To use, simply pour your neem oil in a spray bottle, shake, and spray your bonsai leaves, stems branches, and trunk, and top solid lightly once per week.
Keep an eye out then for the signs we mentioned above, and you should be good to go in the future.
My top picks for the gear you will need!
So like I mentioned earlier, over the past three years of running PlantPaladin, hundreds of people have asked me for my recommendations on the best bonsai gear on the market.
Having spent thousands of dollars on bonsai items these past few years and tested at least 100 bonsai-specific products, I’ve listed my favorite products below – All of which I highly recommend and think you can get great value.
They can purchase directly by clicking the link to take them to Amazon.
Bonsai Tool Set: One of the significant challenges I’ve had is finding a toolset that was not only durable but didn’t break the bank. SOLIGT has recently developed a fantastic bonsai tool set that covers all the tools you need to trim, prune, and repot your trees. – You can grab it here.
Complete Bonsai Set: Many of you will want to grow your bonsai trees entirely from scratch, but finding the varicose seeds, pots, and other items in one place can be challenging. Leaves and Sole then have created a complete bonsai set that I’ve personally used that ticks all the boxes. You can grab it here.
Bonsai wire: The number of times I’ve run out of wire for my bonsai or purchased cheap bonsai wire that doesn’t do the job is embarrassing for me to admit. After a lot of trial and error, I found that using Hotop’s aluminum bonsai wire is one of the best options on the market. This can easily be used for both indoor and outdoor bonsai. You can grab it here.
This post was written by Fehed Nicass who has been passionate about bonsai for over 2 years. He currently resides in the UK and works in sales.