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We bought a bonsai tree in Houston, TX and we spotted something on the branches.

What is it? Should we remove them?

Something on the bonsai

As suggested I've taken more pictures and investigated further.

also on other branches

I removed more: I took some smaller ones attached to a loose twig

They're wrapped around the twig

Another view

I cut one open:

I cut one open

I decided to look at the contents with a small microscope: I had a small microscope handy

Some of them move:

And they move

video of movement

So what is the best way to kill any that might be left once I remove them?

  • You should remove them as Jim Young indicates. Then, please provide more pictures of the undersides of the leaves and closeup of the stems in case some of the usual suspects like scale and mealybug are there too – kevinsky Jun 20 '16 at 18:48
  • To me, it seems a fungus. But never saw so big on a small trunk. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jun 20 '16 at 20:09
  • Seeing the detail of what was inside felt almost like this video of someone in Australia killing a wolf spider. – wally Jun 20 '16 at 20:37
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I've never seen such a thing and it isn't clear to me what it is. However, it certainly is a bug if it moves. Sucking insects like aphids and scale would be on the leaves or petioles where they can tap into the little tubes (phloem) that transport the sugars from photosynthesis away from the leaves. This thing is on a woody stem and probably not a sucking insect.

I suggest you do a little investigation to give us more information for answering your question or to figure out for yourself whether it is something to worry about. If you have isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol around, wet a cotton swab and dab it on the thing. This is a test for scale, a sucking insect - does the thing fall off?

Next, just snip off the end of the twig with the thing (i.e., look it over more thoroughly; maybe use a magnifying glass).

If you don't recognize what it is, I suggest you try to remove it from the severed twig-tip - just break it off with your fingers, if you can. If the place where it was looks similar to the cut end of the twig-tip, the thing is a growth of some kind. Else, it is something foreign to the tree and you will likely want to pluck all the rest of them.

Lastly, it may be helpful to slice one of these in half. I would use an Xacto knife, razor blade, or the like. It may be a hard 'nut' that is very difficult to cut - if so, that is enough. Otherwise, you will likely need to use a magnifying glass to see the interior structure at the cut and will likely recognize if it is a bud or a gall (a growth caused by a bacterial/viral infection).

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  • I'll take one apart carefully for more pictures and information. There was another one just beside the one in the picture. It was brittle and got your fingers dirty with a reddish brown substance on the inside. They're not moving as far as I can tell. – wally Jun 20 '16 at 17:21
  • I've added some pictures. The horror... – wally Jun 20 '16 at 20:22
  • Your new pix make it clear that they are egg cases. Apparently many of them (your tree is infested?). I would bag an example or two to show to a local entomologist, agriculture extension agent, local nurseryman. Otherwise, my inclination is to remove and squish them all. Even if these proved to be beneficial insects, so many are unnecessary if nothing else. --- I've not yet found an ID, working online. – Jim Young Jun 20 '16 at 23:08
  • @flatmouse, you might want to try passing your question along to whatsthatbug.com/ask-whats-that-bug – Jim Young Jun 20 '16 at 23:27
  • Thanks for the advice and input. I'll also take a shot at posting it on whatsthatbug. – wally Jun 21 '16 at 0:59

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