Mysterious drops of sweet liquid near oak tree

evelyn54June 12, 2010

I have a 100-year-old oak tree that has never seemed ill or diseased. Today all over my garden in the vicinity of the tree I see big droplets of sweet liquid. It is the consistency and color of very light maple syrup, and is quite sticky.

I can't see where it might be coming from, but the droplets cover an area approximately 40' x 50'.

I'd appreciate any advice on how to determine if there is a problem I need to attend to.

Thank you!

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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

How do you know the liquid is sweet?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 3:17PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Scales and aphids secrete "honeydew" that smears windshields and makes surfaces sticky. I think that is what taz6122 is wondering about. It is not the tree, but its advantageous insects that create this situation. More likely scale insects on an oak.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 10:48PM
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Dan Staley

I suspect this will be a banner year for this sort of thing, esp aphids and scale.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 8:07AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I think taz was wondering if evelyn tasted this stuff! I was wondering the same thing, lol. Darn it all, I've NEVER been able to talk one of my students into tasting honeydew.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 1:42PM
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Dan Staley

Huh. Never thought of that. I'll have some tweens out in the woods soon looking at trees, maybe I'll see if I can get them to do it if we find some.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 4:50PM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

That's exactly what I was wondering! How would you know without tasting it?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 9:58PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Dan, I'll bet the tweens might be 'brave' enough. My students were all adults and waaayy too chicken.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 11:15PM
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Oh, I'm embarrassed now -- I did taste just a little of it! My dad was an amateur naturalist and used taste as part of his identification system for most plants. He assured me (though I should know better now!) that a little taste of most things couldn't hurt you, even if they were poisonous.... Despite knowing better, my immediate thought on seeing these drops was to taste a little! But, more importantly, if this is caused by aphids or scale, it won't hurt the tree, will it? Thanks for your answers.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 6:20AM
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Dan Staley

Evelyn, don't feel bad - I'm a volunteer naturalist and our groups' faces are always in something, smelling, touching. The tree likely is having a difficult year this year and the critters are taking advantage. One year and the tree hardly notices (or so they tell me when my face is next to them and I ask them ;o) ).


    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 9:48AM
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