Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spider Mites

I had a customer come by, a new comer to bonsai. He had received a gift, a bonsai juniper! He was concerned because his girlfriend had given it to him & he didn't want anything to happen to it. He had a lot of questions, I told him how to water, fertilize, trim & shape also that it would need to be re potted every 3 to 5 yrs. and to keep it outdoors.

He said will you look at it, it's in my car? When he got it out I could see it was infested with spider mites. The tell-tell signs were there, yellowing needles,the graying over all look of the tree. I took a blank sheet of paper & placed it under one of the branches & thumped the foliage. Sure enough you could see the mites scurrying about on the paper.

I'm not going to go into great detail about spider mites. I'm not going to tell you how to eradicate them because you can't! I will tell you how to get them under control. They have a very fast reproductive cycle. They lay eggs which hatch every 5 to 7 days so you need to spray them every 3 to 5 days to kill the adults & the newly hatched larvae. After 2 to 3 cycles you'd think you had taken care of the problem but alas a new crop of mites would be blown in on the next wind!

Be sure to read the labels and follow directions!!!

The best method of controlling them is a systemic insecticide. It is absorbed thru the root system & carried out to the rest of the tree. Orthene, isotox are good examples of systemics for mites. Malathion, diazion, & kelthane are good contact poisons for mites.

If you don't like using poisons there are oils & soaps which can be used. Summer oils are lighter than the traditional dormant oils used for winter. Summer oils can be used thru out spring & summer. Each is effective in smothering pests and their eggs. examples: sun spray ultra fine oil, volck oil spray. Soaps sprays: insecticidal soaps control insect pests by penetrating their cuticles,which causes their cell membranes to collaspse thereby causing dehyration resulting in death. Household dish detergent, 1 tablespoon per 1 gallon of water can be used to spray your trees, or you can purchase commerical soaps like "safe soap".

There is another preventive called "garett juice" a foliar spray but you can make your own 1 tablesoon each of : fish emulsion, liquid kelp, molasses, apple cider vinigar, added to a gallon of water.

Use what ever you choose to but remember to be vigilant thru out the year --happy spraying.

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