I live in downtown Toronto and I have a japanese maple that is just starting to bud. I have noticed that there are tiny black bugs on the buds. Is it safe to spray a neem oil mix on it now?
Thank you for asking us about your Japanese Maple insect .
Your first step is to identify the insect and unfortunately, I cannot do this from the photo. Could you try to capture one by putting a white sheet under the tree and shaking it ? We would then be happy to help you identify it from a close up photo or you could try this link which has helpful photographs searchable by colour (in your case, black) https://www.insectidentification.org/insects-by-state.php?thisState=Ontario. It is not an academic site which we would normally use, but it has good photos which might be useful in this case. This link may take you to a site from which you will have to scroll down to find “Ontario”
The reason it is important to accurately identify it is that pests can look different as they go through their life cycles. For example, an immature beetle may look like a caterpillar or worm. Because of this, pests can easily be mistaken for non-pests, and vice versa. You may find out that your “pest” is actually a beneficial organism, harmless, or only a temporary problem.
In the meantime , you might try to knock them off with strong sprays of water, or (although time consuming but strangely satisfying) go out in the early morning or in the late evening when they are not as likely to fly around and simply knock them into a small bucket/jar of water (add a few drops of soap) where they will drown.
You mention neem oil which is not registered in Canada as a pesticide but visiting a reputable nursery will give you other registered options .
Congratulations on being alert to this potential problem early in the season and good luck . Thank you for contacting us .
April 17 2023