If you've noticed a clear, sticky substance on your plants or on furniture underneath, you likely have a honeydew secretion. If the sticky substance is accompanied by a black sooty coating on leaves, the honeydew is coupled with sooty mold. Learning what causes sticky honeydew sap and how to remove honeydew can get your plants back to normal and allow you to repair the damage. Ignoring the issues of honeydew secretion and its partner, sooty mold, can result in leaf drop and insect spread.
What Causes Sticky Honeydew Sap?
Honeydew secretion begins when plants are attacked by forms of aphids, mealybugs, soft scale and other insects that feed on the plant. The sticky secretion comes from the insect and attracts other insects, like honeybees and ants.
What is Honeydew?
Honeydew sap comes from sugars and other substances in the plant. Secreted by the feeding insect, you might wonder, "Does honeydew hurt plants?" While the actual honeydew secretion does not do damage, the insects that cause it and those it attracts can seriously weaken the plant.
How to Remove Honeydew
Getting rid of the insects creating the honeydew is the first step in how to remove honeydew. Don't rush for a chemical spray, as these kill natural predators of the damaging insect. Wasps and ladybug larvae quickly destroy damaging aphids. In some cases, a strong blast of water can be all that's needed to knock the damaging pests off the affected plant and get rid of the sticky substance. Neem oil, white oil, and insecticidal soap are useful when considering how to remove honeydew causing insects and what they've left behind. These natural products kill soft-bodied aphids and other pests that produce the substance without hurting their hard bodied predators. If honeydew has dripped onto your car or patio furniture, remove it quickly with an appropriate detergent-based product and a soft cloth. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) of vinegar in a gallon (4 L.) of water works well on outdoor furniture. Now that we've answered, "What is honeydew?" and "Does honeydew hurt plants," you'll know how to proceed if you see the signs of this secretion. You've learned how to remove honeydew by getting rid of the insects that cause it. Scout your plants for these pests before honeydew has a chance to begin.
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Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.