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Bonsai Tree Security Techniques. GPS, Chipping and Motion Sensors.

Originally posted 8-27-2014

Bonsai Tree Security Techniques. GPS, Chipping and Motion Sensors.

Security has been an issue for many bonsai artists, especially those with valuable trees or those who have had trees stolen in the past. Many people have different techniques for protecting bonsai. This article will cover a few tested methods we use. The methods described can be implemented with off the shelf components.


#1, Motion Sensors.

Chamberlain manufactures a great motion sensor system, part number CWA2000. This system comes with one wireless sensor and one base station. You plug the base station into the wall and mount the wireless sensor in the area you would like to monitor. The base station will support an additional 7 sensors, part number CWPIR. Two sensors run in a cross pattern will cover a bonsai garden that is 30×30 feet. Add more sensors around your facility for additional protection. Eight sensors will provide good overall protection for a half acre lot. The base station beeps one to eight times depending on which sensors has been activated.

The sensors are good quality plastic, have great battery life and a range of one half mile. The base station/receiver will run on batteries in the event of a power failure. The batteries will last up to 18 months. The base station and sensors require 4 AA batteries each.

False alarms from flying birds and swaying trees do happen and should be a factor in your installation. The sensors can be adjusted for 15 or 30 feet. They are set at 30 feet from the factory. False alarms are very rare at night. If the sensor is activated at night it should be taken very seriously.

Overall the system is easy to mount and program. If you run into problems and or have questions please email me from the contact page on the website.


  • Avoid using rechargeable batteries.
  • Do not over tighten the battery covers.
  • Windy days may cause trees to sway and false alarms. If this becomes annoying you
    can lower the station volume or turn the device off altogether until the annoyance passes.
  • Install the sensors in a circular direction around your property in consecutive
    order. Example. Sensor 1, 2, 3… and so on. This will allow you to easily
    identify the location when a sensor has been activated. Location one will
    beep once and location 8 will beep 8 times.
  • If you program the first sensor and it has two beeps you need to restart the
    process. Two beeps means the unit already had a sensor programmed in slot
    1 and will cause issues when you add more sensors.
  • Test all sensors before mounting them.
  • Test all sensors on a bi-monthly basis. They may become deprogrammed or stop
  • Use good name brand non-rechargeable batteries. You can find Duracell AA
    batteries on Ebay for about 70 cents each.
  • Avoid mounting the sensors directly in the path of a sprinkler head.
  • Paint the sensors to match the surroundings. If mounting on a pine tree you can
    use a couple squirts of gray, brown and maroon for great camouflage.
  • The base station and sensor combo costs around $40. Additional sensors can be
    found for $22 to $40 each. I have had seen the best prices on Amazon. The
    prices do fluctuate. You can save several dollars if you are patient.


#2, RFID Tags.

These have been covered before so I will not go too far into detail. They are very small microchips that are implanted into your tree or pot for unique identification. This is similar to a VIN number for a car or a serial number for a mobile phones. It helps prove ownership and tree identification with the use of a pet scanner. A $20 mobile phone and loyal pets have identifying serial numbers, why not your $500 Black Pine? The tags are sold by several companies including us. Bontag and BonsaiChip to name a few.

#3, Bonsai Satellite Tracking Devices GPS.

This is the most exciting security measure I have come across. A company called Globalstar has a spin-off LLC called Spot. This company has a couple of great products including the Spot Trace. The Trace is a s small GPS device measuring about 2x3x1 inches. The unit is waterproof. Activation and setup can be complicated but the end result is a reliable unit. Once its activated you can bury it in your bonsai soil about 1/2 inch deep and forget about it. You can program the unit to check in via email or SMS once a day. The unit will notify you in the event it has detected movement and allow you to track your tree in near real time. You can also setup a “GEO fence”, an electronic area to designated as home. Once the tree leaves that area you will be notified.

The most important feature is battery life. Previous technology has only allowed for tracking devices to last about 3 solid days before charges. This is because GSM tracking devices are basically mobile phones without a keypad. They need to communicate on a regular basis with cell towers. This results in excessive battery consumption. Other factors such as variable signal, tower hand-off and device monitoring can also cause additional battery consumption.

No need to worry about short battery life with the Spot Trace. This unit bypasses all of the GSM mobile phone tower problems and communicated directly with outer space. Its truly a GPS device. How cool is that! It conserves battery power until needed. It only transmits a small packet of data once per day to check in or when movement has been detected.

Another advantage is global tracking as the device communicates directly with LEO satellites, not independent phone carriers that can have poor signal areas or only operate in specific regions.

The battery will theoretically last 12-24 months because a bonsai tree is stationary most of its life requiring minimal transmissions. Its important to use the manufacturer recommended replacement AA long life batteries. These batteries cost about $5 each. Spot requires two.

Spot offers great technical support. This is a new technology for them. The interface can be somewhat confusing. The initial setup can take a few days to master before you are confident to bury your tracking device. Its worth the wait. Once it has been setup and you have fully tested the device you can bury and forget about it. It will check in once per day and notify you when movement is detected. It will send location updates during the movement and notify you when the batteries need to be changed.

Cost is a factor. The device has a retail price of $100. I have found them on sale for $75 and $80 each with mail in rebate. I would recommend you purchase these directly from or an authorized dealer to ensure you receive the proper warranty and technical support. Many retailers of this product have website coupon codes that can further reduce the price. The other expense is the service. It runs $100 per year or $8.35 per month. This is a solid investment for collections that exceed $10 grand in value.

Placement is important. Very few people have hundred thousand dollar collections and can afford multiple tracking devices. I would recommend you purchase one unit and place it on a “bait tree”. This would be the tree most likely to be stolen from your collection because of size, quality and location.

Overall this is a good investment for the advanced bonsai artist. Its not a complete protection scheme. If added to other security measures it will make for a sound investment.

If you do purchase this device and have some Spot/bonsai related questions feel free contact me from the contact page on the website. General technical support from Spot is also available.

Is important to note that this unit is advertised as waterproof but not guaranteed against water damage. Basic mechanical skills are required when sealing the unit back up after a battery change.

Good luck and thanks for the continued support.

By Bonsai Jack

2 thoughts on “Bonsai Tree Security Techniques. GPS, Chipping and Motion Sensors.

  1. Any ways to secure them with steel cable ir similar? Im having a gard time finding how to secure the trunk. Mist cable locks don’t tighten up. I would need dome sort of clamp

    1. Hello Cesar. Thanks for the message. The only thing i can think of would be chain link. Good luck on securing them


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