|Possible Bamboo Pests|
Bamboo doesn't have many pests, but the pests they do have can be unsightly, if not a serious problem, unless some simple steps are taken.
In northern California we have an abundance of gophers and squirrels, who think tender new rhizomes, bamboo shoots, and even new branch buds are a delicacy. To protect the rhizomes from gophers, the best solution is to plant inside of a ¼ inch mesh metal gopher basket (which can be purchased). By the time the basket has rusted away, your bamboo is usually large and well established, and gophers cannot do enough damage to seriously harm your bamboo. If you find that new shoots or new branch buds are being chewed up by squirrels or gophers, painting on tabasco sauce is quite effective! (It may leave permanent stains on culms, however).
Insects: Mites, Aphids, Mealy Bugs, Scale, & Ants:
It is much easier to keep mites out of your bamboo than it is to get rid of them once they have established themselves, and they can become a serious problem. Therefore, inspect any new bamboo you import into your garden. If mites are found, immediately separate the plants from other bamboos in your garden and clean thoroughly with a high-powered hose. See below for stronger measures, if required. Also, mites live in grass, so make an effort to keep grasses away from the base of your bamboo.
The symptoms of mites are small, regular, bleached-looking spots on the leaves. If you look very closely at the underside of the leaves, you will also see a very fine white web. The mites themselves are silvery grey and so small it is hard to see them without a magnifying glass. Often mites and aphids can be found together, and the treatment for both is the same.
Aphids are small crawling insects, either green or black in color. Mealy bugs appear usually in branch joints as little spots of "white cotton" which seem not to move at all. Scale looks like little, flat cones on branches and leaves, and are light colored when young, growing darker and more visible with age.
Aphids, mealy bugs and scale are sometimes accompanied by ants and/or sooty mold. These insects all produce a sticky secretion that can be eaten by ants, and sometimes a black sooty mold grows on it as well. So the presence of ants or sooty mold is often a sign of insect problems. The ants themselves do not harm the bamboo. Mealy bugs and scale are less of a problem in areas which receive hard frosts in winter.
With the interests of the environment in mind, below you will find our approaches to insect problems, with the most environmentally friendly listed first:
Other possible pests - Bamboo in the West is a deer-proof plant. We have lots of deer here in Northern California, specifically the western mule deer, but have never had a problem with them. However, if bamboo is the only fodder for miles around they might eat it, especially tender new plants, and in that case, deer fencing around your new bamboo plants is a good idea. In the eastern U.S., the white-tailed deer co-evolved with our one native American species of bamboo, Arundinaria gigantea, and developed a taste for bamboo; and therefore, deer fencing is more imperative in the eastern states.
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