Last summer, we ran into a predicament where sap was dripping off the leaves of a nearby tree. Unfortunately, this covered my car in a sticky substance, which led to the accumulation of dirt, as well as the arrival of flies, bees, wasps and other annoying insects.
After searching around online, I quickly realised that I was wrong. Simply put: It wasn’t sap at all. Sap doesn’t drip from the leaves of a tree. Instead, it comes out of the bark.
So what was it?
Aphids (aka plant lice) are small little insects that will suck the fluid out of a tree. As they are feeding, they will secrete a sticky substance called honeydew. As soon as the aphid infestation has reached a point where it has spiralled out of control, this sweet honeydew residue will begin to drip from the leaves of the tree in question, leading many people to think that it is plant sap.
Ants are the real troublemakers in this situation. They carry the aphids up the tree so that the aphids can suck the fluid out of the tree. This is so that the ants can feed off the sticky honeydew substance that the aphids are secreting.
Basically, the ants are using the tree as a farm. They will herd the aphids up the tree and then protect them from other insects.
What to do?
To rid the tree of this aphid infestation, you will need to do the following:
1. Prevent the ants from climbing up the tree.
Get some trickle or another sticky tape-like product that can be wrapped around the base of the tree. Make sure that it is wrapped tightly, as you do not want to have a situation where the ants can crawl up underneath it. The material that you use should be relatively weather-proof and it should be able to last for a couple of weeks. This should prevent the ants from being able to carry more aphids up into the tree.
2. Water down the tree.
Now that you’ve taken away the ants ability to restock their aphid farm, you should hose down the leaves of the tree. The goal here is to git rid of the aphids that are currently feeding on the tree. Be sure to spend a few minutes at this, just to make sure that you’ve reduced the vast majority of them. Leftover aphids will die off pretty quickly, especially seeing as their bodyguards can no longer climb up to protect them. It is also worth noting that an aphid only has a lifespan of about 20-40 days.
3. Ant Killer.
As an additional measure against the aphid infestation, you can place ant killer at the base of the tree (in many cases, this is where the ant nest is located). If you’re against the notion of killing ants, then you can use a natural repellent such as mint tea (grind the leaves up and sprinkle them at the base of the tree).
That’s it. If you follow the above steps, the infestation will be gone and that horrible sticky residue will no longer drip from the leaves of the tree. Typically – This will solve the issue until the sticky tape around the tree dries out and the ants start to return.