(KFDX/KJTL) — Nothing is more annoying than getting the car washed, only to wake up the following day to find it covered in a sticky tree sap.
For some people across the U.S., it’s more or less expected during the spring and summer months. But you may be noticing your car is still getting gross well into October. Could it be tree sap?
No, that’s probably not tree sap, according to Katherine Smith, owner of Smith’s Gardentown in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Smith said the sticky substance could be aphid waste — aphids being a type of insect that feed on plant sap, according to the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
“After they feed on the chlorophyll from the leaves, they exude something that we euphemistically call ‘honeydew,'” Smith explained.
This “honeydew” is the sugary waste from the masses of aphids that can be found in trees.
“That is what drips onto anything that’s underneath the tree,” Smith said. “Your car, your sidewalk, the swimming pool, the kid’s toys, everything.”
While honeydew is a nuisance, Smith said it doesn’t really hurt trees too badly.
Some honeydew can even be beneficial for other insects, like ants, which eat the sticky goo, as explained by McGill University in Montreal. In fact, ants can often be seen helping aphids get to the areas of the tree with the most sap for this very reason.
The honeydew season in north Texas, where Smith is from, has seemed to last a lot longer in 2022 than in years past. Smith said it may not end for residents anytime soon, either, though she notes a “really good rain” would take care of it.
But what are homeowners to do about aphids on their property in the meantime?
As researchers at the University of Kentucky explain, aphids produce quickly and can easily overwhelm trees and plants within days. Aphid youths are typically female and mature in 7-10 days, and are able to produce between 40 to 60 aphid babies each.
But “aphids are not hard to kill,” Smith said. “Almost any insecticide will kill them. The problem is usually the trees are so tall that the homeowner’s sprayer cannot reach them to do a really good job of spraying.”
If you happen to have a power washer, you can try using an insecticide and spray as directed, as carefully as possible to avoid contact or poisoning. Some people also swear by using Dawn dish soap and water. Or, you can call a commercial company to get the job done for you.
It’s also possible to prevent aphids before they start. Smith said you can apply a systematic drench to the roots of a tree in spring — typically around March — and the roots will soak and transfer to the leaves, which will then discourage aphids from attaching to the leaves.
You can also try to avoid aphid “honeydew” altogether by parking away from any trees — especially myrtles, pecan or oak trees. Aphids are also attracted to fruit-bearing trees.
Failing that, Smith has another easy solution: Get a tarp for your vehicle.