Long ago, I blogged about watching a troop of paper wasps attack a nasty web of webworms in one of my pecan trees, and now those same trees are providing the setting for yet another insect drama.
Ever since Austin's incredibly hot summer has ended, suddenly, it seems, with temperatures in the pleasant range and enough rainfall to coax long-dormant flowers to bloom and grasses to green up. I've noticed that in the mornings, when I'm getting ready to drive to work, my car is covered with an irksome sticky substance that appears to have rained from the sky. I assumed this goo-sprinkling was the work of my pecan trees, grateful for the rain and spitting out pollen or sap or something, aspiring to procreate.
But when I spoke with Sharon Truett, the general manager of The Natural Gardener in Austin, she told me I was wrong. Though she couldn't make a diagnosis without looking at a few leaves under a microscope, she told me that the sticky goo was likely the "honeydew" (excrement) of aphids, which were attacking my tree. Stressed from the drought, pecan trees all across Austin were easy pickings for hungry aphids. There's not a lot I can do, she said, except to pray for ladybugs and other beneficial insects, which devour aphids, critters Sharon described as "the cows of the insect world--succulent, slow-moving, and full of tenderness."
Come on, ladybugs! Supper is ON!