Bugs, Diseases and First Aid for your Bonsai

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Page 1 of 2: Bugs, Diseases and First Aid for Bonsai

Most species of shrubs or trees commonly used for bonsai cultivation rarely succumb to disease if looked after carefully and given the correct environment to grow in.It is my experience that 95% or more trees that are affected by disease or bugs are also in poor general health. Under or over watering, under or over feeding, poor growing conditions (including poor, compacted soil), poor positioning of the bonsai, all cause stress to a tree, leaving it more susceptible to infection from disease and bugs. Bugs can attack trees randomly though you quickly learn which are likely to become infested at a moments' notice!

Whilst healthy, vigorous trees are unlikely to be attacked, they will also be better able to survive attacks from bugs and diseases. Trees in poor health or trees that are under stressful growing conditions will be more affected by any external attack on its weakened defences.

Precautions such as regular spraying with systemic insecticides and fungicides can be useful though should be relied upon. Systemic remedies work by being sprayed onto the foliage, which digests the treatment into the sap stream of the plant where it is distributed throughout the entire plant. Attacks of fungi or bugs are quelled when they attack the plant and are exposed to the treated sap.

However, systemic treatments are not 100% effective and regular spraying is expensive, environmentally unsound; repeated use can also reduce the effectiveness of treatments when they are actually needed. In my opinion, it is far better to use systemic insecticides or fungicides on trees that are known to suffer problems at certain times of the year. 

FIRST AID Primarily, try to identify what has happened to your tree. Has it lost foliage? Do any of the leaves have discoloration or holes? Closely examine the tree and the foliage, is there any evidence of pests either on the tree itself, on the surface of the compost or around the surface on which the pot itself is standing.

Secondly, once (hopefully) the pest or disease is identified and dealt with it is important to identify if there is any way that you could prevent re-occurrence in the future. Some problems such as caterpillars and aphids are difficult to guard against though you should be able to anticipate which trees in your collection are more likely to be attacked.

YELLOWING LEAVES/DROPPING LEAVES There are only 3 ways that a healthy tree with healthy foliage will suddenly lose leaves or have leaves that suddenly turn dry and crispy (over just 2 or 3 days):

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