WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Nothing’s more annoying than getting the car home from a fresh car wash, only to wake up the following day to find it covered in a sticky substance.
For Wichita Falls residents, it’s not uncommon. In fact, during the spring and summer months, it’s more or less expected. However, well into October, people still find their cars filthy, no matter how clean they were the day before.
Keeping the car clean is a nuisance everyone deals with, especially regarding the sticky substance often found on vehicles. Many think it’s sap.
According to Katherine Smith, owner of Smith’s Gardentown in Wichita Falls, many think wrong.
“What you’re seeing is not sap from the tree,” Smith said. “It is aphids that are on the leaves of the tree, and after they feed on the chlorophyll from the leaves, they exude something that we euphemistically call ‘honeydew’.”
Excrement from an aphid. You read that right. It’s bug poop.
“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.”
What is often referred to as “sap” is actually the excrement of thousands of aphids in trees, eating the chlorophyll from the leaves, and getting “honeydew” everywhere.
But, is it harmful to trees?
“It’s just a nuisance,” Smith said. “It’s really not hurting the tree real badly, but it does create a big mess.”
The honeydew season has seemed to last a lot longer in 2022 than in years past. It seems the aphid invasion is worse than it’s been in recent memory.
Smith said it may not end any time soon, either.
“We don’t know how long this infestation will last,” Smith said. “A really good rain would take care of it.”
Certainly, with lake levels on the decline, a little rain would help a lot. But rain has been hard to come by in North Texas this summer and fall. So, what is a homeowner to do until that rain comes?
“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 do happen to have a power washer, pick up some insecticide and you’re set. Several people also swear by using Dawn dish soap and water. Or, you can call a commercial company, such as Shoop’s Termite Texas, 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.
Luckily, if none of those options work for you, honeydew isn’t harmful.
But, it is annoying. However, there are ways to avoid annoyance.
A simple change to make to avoid the mess on your vehicle is to park away from any trees, especially if there are crepe myrtles, pecan trees or oak trees in your or your neighbor’s yard. Aphids are also attracted to fruit-bearing trees.
If you can’t do that, Smith has another easy solution.
“If you are just concerned because it’s getting on your car or your motorcycle. the easiest thing to do is buy a tarp and cover it,” Smith said.
For the time being, aphids aren’t going away. But thankfully, there’s more than one way to weather the aphid invasion.