What else could this be? Tacky leaves on Tiger Bark Ficus

DJpost-itNote

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I noticed this shiny tackiness on a few leaves on my Tiger Bark Ficus. Some research said it could be scale or aphids. But I see no other signs other than the sticky leaves. I've sprayed the tree down with some neem oil just to be safe. Could this be anything else? Is there anything else I should be doing/checking?

The black dot in one of the pictures is a hole, light shines through it. The tree also has a small fungus gnat issue, but has been controlled a bit by some traps. The tree is currently indoors under a light, and is given an organic 4-3-2 granular fertilizer.
 

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DonovanC

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I noticed this shiny tackiness on a few leaves on my Tiger Bark Ficus. Some research said it could be scale or aphids. But I see no other signs other than the sticky leaves. I've sprayed the tree down with some neem oil just to be safe. Could this be anything else? Is there anything else I should be doing/checking?

The black dot in one of the pictures is a hole, light shines through it. The tree also has a small fungus gnat issue, but has been controlled a bit by some traps. The tree is currently indoors under a light, and is given an organic 4-3-2 granular fertilizer.
Something perhaps spilled on the tree? Do you see aphids or scale? Can we get a picture of the full tree?
The foliage looks a bit scarce and it looks like some leaves are dropping. If you do have bugs 40:1 water:dishsoap spray will do the job. But I’m not sure that you have that issue. If you see scale scrape them off and spray with this soap water mix.
You said you have fungus gnats - this is a sign of over-watering which can be just as bad or worse than under-watering. What soil is it in? How often are you watering?
 

DJpost-itNote

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I was thinking something spilled on the tree too, but it's on the top as well. Which makes no sense. The leaves did drop a bit when I brought it inside, but has since been bouncing back with new growth. It's on a partially obstructed east facing window and under a light.
I've been using a moisture meter and only watering when it gets down to a 3, so it's getting water every 8-9 days and fertilizer every 4 weeks.
I've inspected it closely up and down, I see no signs of any bugs (aside from the gnats) only the sticky/shininess. I'm unsure of the soil as I bought the tree from a family friend/hobbyist about 4 months ago.
 

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DonovanC

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I see. I don’t think you have anything to worry about. As long as you’re allowing the soil to dry up a bit before watering while also never allowing it to fully dry out then you’re good. It just needs some recovery time.
I’m not familiar with moisture meters, so I can’t say anything about that.
Is it in bonsai substrate?
 

rockm

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You most likely have scale. Scale insects lie flat on the surface of stems of branches. They look like WWI "limpet mines"or just flat. They secrete "honeydew" as they suck plant sap. That hooneydew falls onto leaves below them and creates sticky shiny spots on leaves. You have to remove them by hand, as they will tend to repel insecticide with a waxy coating on their shells.

And FWIW, moisture meters are useless--and possibly harmful--when used with bonsai. Bonsai soil tends to be alot more porous than potting soil, with more spaces in between soil particles. Moisture meters measure the moisture in between soil particles, so the meter is most likely to read "needs water." Even if it doesn't, readings are misleading. I would not rely on one. It's a recipe for disaster. Learn to water when the tree needs it...
 

DonovanC

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so it's getting water every 8-9 days and fertilizer every 4 weeks.
I just now saw this part. I’m assuming it’s in potting soil? If it’s in bonsai soil and you’re watering less than weekly than I’d say you need to water more. And if it’s not in bonsai soil, it would be a good idea to repot it into some proper soil. The tree does look under watered.
 

DJpost-itNote

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I would not rely on one. It's a recipe for disaster. Learn to water when the tree needs it...
I got a moisture meter because I thought I was over watering with all the leave turning yellow and dropping. Since getting the meter an watering every 8-9 days the tree has new growth and the leaves stopped turning yellow and dropping. How can I learn when it needs water without the meter?
 

rockm

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I got a moisture meter because I thought I was over watering with all the leave turning yellow and dropping. Since getting the meter an watering every 8-9 days the tree has new growth and the leaves stopped turning yellow and dropping. How can I learn when it needs water without the meter?
There are many methods. The way I learned was to lift a pot that needs watering, or that hasn't been watered in a while. Pick it up, feel the weight of an empty-ish pot that needs water.

Then water thoroughly, until water runs out of the drain holes. Then pick it up again. The pot will feel significantly heavier because of the water retained in the soil. You have to repeat this a lot for it to become easy. As you'r doing this, notice the color of the topsoil--dry soil is lighter in color than saturated soil. In time, you can learn when it's time to water simply by looking at the color of the soil.

Another method is to insert a chop stick deep into the soil--like halfway down into it. Water the pot. The stick, when withdrawn, will be darker in color. You can check on soil moisture using that chopstick like a engine's oil dipstick--the lighter the color, the more water is needed.

Both methods take time, but they're reliable, more so that a water meter.

Watering is the hardest lesson to learn in bonsai.
 

coh

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As others have noted, scale is the most likely cause. I don't see any obvious scales in the photos but look on the underside of leaves and look closely at the stems and new growth. Is this something that has appeared recently, since you have had the tree indoors? Or was the tree outside at some point, perhaps near/under the branches of a larger tree? If the latter, it's possible sap or honeydew could have dropped onto the tree from above.

I'd search carefully for scale and would also clean off the sticky stuff from the leaves. See if it reappears.
 

rockm

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As others have noted, scale is the most likely cause. I don't see any obvious scales in the photos but look on the underside of leaves and look closely at the stems and new growth. Is this something that has appeared recently, since you have had the tree indoors? Or was the tree outside at some point, perhaps near/under the branches of a larger tree? If the latter, it's possible sap or honeydew could have dropped onto the tree from above.

I'd search carefully for scale and would also clean off the sticky stuff from the leaves. See if it reappears.
If the tree was outdoors, Ants are also another way for scale (and aphids) to get on your tree. Ants "farm" both insects for the sugary honeydew. If you had ants around the tree outside, that's why they were there.
 

DJpost-itNote

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I've searched the entire thing, no signs of aphids or scale. One cluster of leaves that is sticky has no leaves or branches above it. Also one thing I forgot, a few weeks ago the tree was covered in house flies. I have no idea where they came from, but the tree was covered in 8-10 of them. I killed or removed them all. Since then they've all died off, and have no more house flies in the apartment.
 

DonovanC

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I've searched the entire thing, no signs of aphids or scale.
I think this is because you are having a watering issue, not a pest issue. Even if you did have a pest issue, it would likely have been caused by the tree being weakened. You said it dropped some leaves when you brought it in? I would wager that your watering practices probably changed a bit at that time as well.
As mentioned, the best way to water a tree is to, 1: out it in a properly draining substrate, and 2: water it when the top layer of substrate is dry. Don't let it go multiple days without watering it, and don't allow it to sit with soggy roots - with properly draining soil and a pot that allows for drainage, this wont be an issue.
 

Paradox

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I agree with the others that this is most likely scale.

You don't get sticky leaves from a watering issue

My ficus get scale every winter when I bring them inside and there are no longer predators that eat scale.

Scale can be very small, very hard to see (almost look like dust on the leaves) and can be on the stems as well as leaves. You might not see them on the leaves where the sticky sap is because it is dripping down from somewhere above
 

LanceMac10

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Guest responding poorly to a "proper" rum&coke?

See what the neem does....and then get a Brazilian Raintree!!
 

DJpost-itNote

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Well took it to a local bonsai group, they looked at the tree and told me it was spider mites. Hopefully the neem will do the trick, might have to try some systemic pesticide too.
 
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