Aphids, Sap, & Ladybugs 🐞

You may not be familiar with aphids but most homeowners are familiar with the sticky sap that drips from trees around this time of year and the cute little insects we call ladybugs. But what do all these things have in common?

They’re all part of an environmental equilibrium which is often out of balance in our urban landscape. To be specific, the aphids are the pest, the sap a symptom, and ladybugs a natural solution.


7 insects to look out for this summer - Aphids
Aphids on the backside of tree leaves

Aphids, also known as plant lice, are among the most destructive tree bugs. They reproduce rapidly making it easy for them to quickly grow into a large population that will damage your tree.  Found from May through September, these tiny insects do damage by feeding on the soft tissues and plant sap of tree/shrub leaves.

Targets: Aphids target many species including but not limited to; Ash, Crape Myrtles, Fir, Pine, Spruce, Cedar, Hackberry, Roses, and Tulip Poplars.

Symptoms of Aphids:

  • Drooping Leaves
  • Yellow Spots
  • Black small dots on the underside of the leaves (these are what aphids look like to the naked eye)
  • Honeydew (also referred to as sap) dripping from tree leaves or at the base of the tree
  • Sooty Mold, black substance on tree leaves/base of the tree.
  • Ants on the Tree (Ants love the taste of honeydew. Trails of them going up and down the tree signal that honeydew and aphids are present.)


honeydew on walkway
Honeydew on the sidewalk under a tree

Honeydew, commonly referred to as sap, is one of the most common and most noticeable symptoms of aphids and other plant-sucking insects. You may not be familiar with the name but you’re probably familiar with the issue. Have you ever encountered annoying sticky sap coating your car, furniture, or walkway that’s under a tree? That’s honeydew.

This sticky substance can be extremely frustrating for homeowners because it’s difficult to remove, accumulates dirt, and attracts flies and other annoying insects. But what most homeowners are surprised to hear is that Honeydew isn’t actually sap. It’s the excrement from plant-sucking insects such as Aphids.

Thankfully, we have a variety of ways to successfully treat aphids and rid your yard of honeydew. One of the most effective, organic, and entertaining ways is to use the food chain to our advantage.

Ladybugs – A Natural Treatment

Native LadyBug

Ladybugs are a natural predator that feed on aphids. When you release ladybugs on your aphid infested tree/shrub and into your landscape they will feed on the aphid population, keeping this pest in check, halting the damage the aphids were creating, and stopping the annoying symptom of honeydew/sap dripping from your tree/shrub. Not to mention it’s a fun activity for children and adults to participate in.

Using beneficial insects, like ladybugs, is a natural and efficient way of solving your pest issues. In addition, it’s better for the environment and keeping the delicate ecosystem balanced in your landscape.

Why Shouldn’t I Just Use Insecticides?

Beneficial Insect Release
Beneficial Insect Release of Ladybugs on a Client’s Property in 2018

There is often a lack of beneficial insects in our suburban landscapes. Often times these beneficial insects are killed off by indiscriminate spraying of insecticides, mosquito spray companies being one of the biggest offenders. When over-spraying occurs it creates a situation where pests populations are able to recover and repopulate faster than the beneficial insect populations that feed on them. This leads to the pests feeding on trees and causing damage without being slowed down by any natural predators.*

If over-spraying insecticides caused your aphid issues using even more insecticides this year could just make the problem worse next year. In these situations it’s often advised to either strictly use beneficial insects to treat aphids, or a combination of traditional insecticides followed by a beneficial insect release to restore the balance in your landscape.

If you are experiencing honeydew or other symptoms of aphids, we can help! Give us a call at 703.573.3029 to schedule an appointment or book an appointment online to get started solving your aphid issues.

*RTEC uses the SmartTreat method when performing insecticide treatments which greatly reduces the risk of killing beneficial insects and creating situations like the one discussed above. Learn more about the SmartTreat method.

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