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!
Why does my bonsai tree have bugs?
There are a few different reasons why your bonsai tree has bugs.
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:
- Add the water into the spray bottle.
- Add the dish soap to the water.
- 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.
- 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!
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:
- 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.
- Fill the rest with water (at least 1 cup).
- Then spray it onto the aphids to kill them.
- 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.
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.
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 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.
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!
Need more tips? Check out this comprehensive article for spider mite control.
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.
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:
- Chalcid wasps
- Braconid wasps
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.
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.
Here’s a resource page to follow.
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.
Here’s a handy tutorial you can follow.
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
- Fig tree
- Snow rose
- Dwarf pomegranate
- Hornbeam and beech
- Oak, magnolia stellata
- Flame tree
- 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.