This is NOT tree sap all over your car

(KFDX/KJTL) – Nothing is more annoying than having your car washed, only to wake up the next day to find it covered in a sticky tree sap.

For some people in the US, this is more or less expected in the spring and summer months. But you might notice that well into October your car is still getting gross. Could it be tree sap?

No, that’s probably not tree sap, says Katherine Smith, owner of Smith’s Gardentown in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Smith said the sticky substance could be aphid waste — aphids are a type of insect that feed on plant sap, according to the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

“After feeding on the chlorophyll of the leaves, they excrete what we euphemistically call ‘honeydew,'” Smith explained.

This “honeydew” is the sugary waste of aphids, which are found in abundance in trees.

“It’s dripping on everything under the tree,” Smith said. “Your car, your sidewalk, the pool, the kids’ toys, everything.”

While honeydew is a nuisance, Smith said it doesn’t harm trees all that much.

Some honeydew may even be beneficial for other insects like ants, which eat the gooey goo, as explained by Montreal’s McGill University. In fact, ants are often seen helping aphids get to the areas of the tree with the most sap, for precisely this reason.

The honeydew season in North Texas, where Smith is from, seemed to last a lot longer in 2022 than in previous years. Smith said it may not end anytime soon for residents either, although she notes a “really good rain” would make sure of it.

In the meantime, what can homeowners do about aphids on their property?

As researchers from the University of Kentucky explain, aphids produce quickly and can easily overwhelm trees and plants within a few days. Young aphids are usually female and sexually mature in 7-10 days and can produce between 40 and 60 aphid babies at a time.

But “aphids aren’t hard to kill,” Smith said. “Almost any insecticide will kill them. The problem is usually that the trees are so tall that the homeowner’s sprayer can’t reach them to do a really good spraying job.”

If you happen to have a pressure washer, you can try using an insecticide and spraying as directed, being as careful as possible to avoid contact or poisoning. Some people also swear by Dawn dish soap and water. Or you can call a trading company to do the work for you.

It’s also possible to prevent aphids before they start. Smith said that you can systematically water a tree’s roots in spring — usually around March — and the roots will be drenched and transferred to the leaves, which then discourages aphids from attaching themselves to the leaves.

You can also try to avoid aphid “honeydew” altogether by parking away from trees—especially myrtle, pecan, or oak trees. Aphids are also attracted to fruit trees.

Otherwise, Smith has another simple solution: get a tarp for your vehicle. This is NOT tree sap all over your car

Grace Reader

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