The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

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The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  Rob Kempinski on Thu Feb 04, 2010 2:04 am

This is to be one of the most unusual procedures I have done and have ever heard of.

Back in November I was checking out one of my Florida Elm bonsai and to my chagrin noticed that several of the branches on the top of the tree were hollowed out. Some type of insect, probably a termite, ate the inside hardwood of nearly half of the branches on the tree. With no deadwood the branches, while still having cambium, were weak and a few broke off quite easily.



The first thing I did was chase the hollows with copper wire. I managed to pull out the remains of the worm/insect with one of them. (Sorry no photo of the body.) But it was rather white. I guess hanging out inside the tree doesn't give it much chance to get a nice Florida suntan.




Next I used a dental irrigator to throughly flush the holes with insecticide. Liquid was leaking from everywhere. Mad Further inspection revealed that the likely entry path was from the bottom of the tree hence making me think it was a termite.

The branches were weak so I pondered what to do about them. I could have chopped off all the branches and attempted to regrow them however I decided to create a deadwood surrogate using polyurethane glue and a copper wire armature.
Polyurethane glue, goes by the brand name, Gorilla Glue, in the US is rather viscous and it expands as it sets. It also likes the mating surfaces to be a bit damp.

I drilled holes on the upper surfaces of the hollow branches and force fed the glue into the holes. Sure enough it flowed into the cavities and then expanded into a foam-like structure. I drilled at least one entry hole and exit hole on the hollow branch sometimes more holes than that. Then squeezing the glue and pushing it with a wire I managed to clean out the termite poop and replace it with glue. I then left the wire in the hole for extra strength.


Once dry I removed the excess glue with a carving knife. The branches are stiffer but not as strong as before. However if they can last long enough to grow some new wood the technique might work.

As you can see I lost about 25 % of the branches on the apex.



Use rubber gloves as the polyurethane glue makes a mess and requires acetone to clean off.

Strange I know and I didn't even try to explain to my wife what I was doing. What a Face


Last edited by Rob Kempinski on Thu Feb 04, 2010 2:16 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  Jay Wilson on Thu Feb 04, 2010 3:34 am

Strange and interesting story, Rob.
I like your idea for repair. I'll be checking my elms tomorrow.

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Re: The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  Paul Landis on Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:25 am

Great idea to use the poly glue and wire. I have a similar situation on an apple from a borer. I may try this method to fill a narrow hollow running up the trunk. Thanks Rob!!

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Re: The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  Joe Hatfield on Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:15 am

Never heard of anything like this. How did you come up with it? Seems like it would work:)

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Re: The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  Kev Bailey on Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:00 am

I always thought it was Gorilla glue, but for undercover operations, this may be better! Wink

Boy, am I glad we don't have termites over here. Great repair technique Rob.

_________________
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” - Charles Darwin.

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Re: The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  Joao Santos on Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:13 pm

Hi Rob,

Well done, keeps us updated with the results.


João Santos

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Re: The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  Rob Kempinski on Thu Feb 04, 2010 2:18 pm

Kev Bailey wrote:I always thought it was Gorilla glue, but for undercover operations, this may be better! Wink

Boy, am I glad we don't have termites over here. Great repair technique Rob.

My bad - hairy monkey it is, not the freedom fighter.

I am not sure what type of bug it was, but since it only ate the hardwood I suspect termite. Lots of them in Florida - hence why my house is made of concrete block.


Last edited by Rob Kempinski on Thu Feb 04, 2010 6:01 pm; edited 1 time in total

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The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  Ka Pabling on Thu Feb 04, 2010 3:03 pm

Hi Rob
Termites are usualy more inteligent workers than the insects that attacked your tree. they eat the inner portion of the tree and leave a very thin portion of the bark so you will not know that they are there. they dont bore holes as seen in the pics. anyway whatever kind of insect(,probably stem borers) you did a magnificent job,leaving the wire in the hole to reinforce the trunk/branch is a good idea.

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Re: The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  Velodog2 on Thu Feb 04, 2010 3:30 pm

Wow, what a busy guy that bug was! Somewhat spuriously, what if we could recruit these things to work on demand, allowing us to string up our trees with internal wiring giving us the ability to pose them as we wish like a Gumby doll Rolling Eyes

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Re: The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  bonsaistud on Thu Feb 04, 2010 5:50 pm

Quite an undertaking Rob...

Pat…mounted on my trusted stead, riding off wildly in all directions…

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Re: The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  Marlon Machado on Thu Feb 04, 2010 5:57 pm

It was a fairly good solution to the problem, well done! Keep us posted on the progress of this tree.

Best regards,

Marlon Machado
Bahia, Brazil

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Re: The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  Rob Kempinski on Thu Feb 04, 2010 5:59 pm

padychitan wrote:Hi Rob
Termites are usualy more inteligent workers than the insects that attacked your tree. they eat the inner portion of the tree and leave a very thin portion of the bark so you will not know that they are there. they dont bore holes as seen in the pics. anyway whatever kind of insect(,probably stem borers) you did a magnificent job,leaving the wire in the hole to reinforce the trunk/branch is a good idea.

They left no telltale mark. The holes you see we made by me when I accidently broke off a few branches while investigating. They (it or them) worked stealthily for several years, in hindsight I now know what termite detritus looks like and will be more vigilant.

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Re: The World's Most Unusual Bonsai Procedure

Post  anttal63 on Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:21 pm

Amazing Rob, keep us updated. cheers

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