As spring arrives and the vegetation begins to come back to life, so do the insects. It’s only a matter of time before our shoes begin to stick like Velcro to the sidewalks and streets. While this point in the year is fairly brief, it can be cause for a lot of frustration. In an effort to ease that frustration, we want to talk about why that happens and what can be done to prevent it.
So, what is this sticky substance coating our suburbs? As you may have heard by now, it is called “Honeydew”, and it’s not as sweet as it sounds. It is, in fact, a sugar-rich liquid that the aphids secrete as they feed on tree sap. It may seem to you that the honeydew problem has been getting worse over the past number of years, and you’d be right! This is occurring because aphids (among other pests) are attracted to stressed trees. Our urban canopy has been struggling for several years due to heat, improper watering, and poor soil conditions, thus making them considerably more susceptible to insect infestation.
Several things can be done to help. Mitigating stress is key to minimizing the risk of infestation. Deep, infrequent watering of the root zone is key to maintaining a healthy tree, especially after several years of severe drought. Without water, a tree cannot receive essential nutrients from the soil. Speaking of soil, drought conditions also take their toll on our already compromised urban earth. From compaction, to a change in pH or nutrient deficiencies, the affects of drought on soil are endless.
While watering helps, it may not be the only component necessary in restoring your tree’s health. Adding organic matter back into the soil, such as compost and/or mulch, can be a great way to provide your tree with nutrients. Proper mulching also has the added benefit of maintaining soil moisture and temperature, which can not only be vital for tree health, but also mean less watering for you! Lastly, having your tree pruned every 3-5 years will not only minimize stress, but will also promote a stronger, healthier tree for years to come. An experienced arborist will know which branches to remove in order to encourage strength and longevity.
While it may take a few years for your watering and composting efforts to prove fruitful, there is an option for relief in the meantime. An annual application of dormant oil to the foliage will help to reduce aphid populations, which also means less stress for your tree! Now is a great time to schedule one of our certified arborists to check on your trees and discuss their needs. Early diagnosis and a care plan is the best defense against pest damage & disease.