En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - October 20, 2012

From: Taylor, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pollinators, Pests, Trees
Title: Live oak trees buzzing in Taylor TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Is it possible for live oak trees to make a buzzing sound? We have heard this sound under our live oak and were worried it was bees but we don't seem to see any. I also heard the buzzing under my mother's live oak tree.


We do think you have bees. They are probably feeding off of honeydew which, to put it as delicately as possible, is a waste product of either scale or aphids. This was a particularly bad problem about this time last year in Central Texas, and seems to be cropping up again. The honeydew is sweet and sticky and often rains out of infested trees to mess up cars, sidewalks and your odd dog, if he doesn't keep moving. The bees are apparently attracted to that substance and may very well be nested somewhere in the thick foliage. Here is a YouTube video on bees nesting in a live oak tree.

Here is a previous Mr.Smarty Plants question on aphids in live oaks, with several additional links, all in Central Texas. Now, here is the thing - if you have bees feeding on aphid honeydew in your tree, the smart move is to leave the whole thing alone. The aphids will die, leaving eggs that can't be disturbed by pesticides. The bees will either leave or hibernate in that tree. Insecticides would be most likely to kill the predators, like ladybugs, that go after the aphids. They could also kill the bees, which are beneficials, in terms of the pollination work that they do. Either spraying that tree with water, as suggested for the aphids, or spraying with pesticide, ditto, is not going to make the bees happy. While the bees are relatively harmless beneficials, mad bees can do considerable harm. Getting up in a tree to investigate may very well require sudden movement, called, "falling," out of the tree, and the climber may be accompanied down by even more angry bees.

Our suggestion is that you wait for cold weather to clear out the infestation, and then, early in the Spring, when the aphid eggs that have overwintered start to hatch, that is the time to start with the water sprays to try to get rid of them. Read this University of California Integrated Pest Management article on Aphids for more information on their life cycle, etc.


More Trees Questions

Transplant shock in desert willow in Austin
November 09, 2011 - We planted a desert willow 5 days ago. It came in a 15-gallon pot but the tree is quite large (~10 ft) with a wide spread. We watered thoroughly during planting but have not watered since (light rai...
view the full question and answer

Acacia tree that will grow in Louisiana
July 13, 2011 - Please tell me if there are any Acacia Trees that will grow in direct sun in Louisiana. I really want to plant some from seeds but don't which to get for zone 8. Thank you Mr Smarty Plants
view the full question and answer

Rhododendrons for afternoon sun
September 10, 2008 - Thanks for your suggestion that I plant rhodedenrons in my Brooklyn garden. In fact, the only bushes I've planted in the past that have survived are rhodedenrons so your definitely right! Here's my...
view the full question and answer

Roots in mulch around Live Oak in Austin
March 10, 2011 - I have a 20 yr old Live Oak that has about 6-8 inches of mulch buildup around the base (I had landscaped around it). I went to break up the mulch to remove it from the base of the tree, but found it ...
view the full question and answer

Looking for a good cultivar of Prunus mexicana.
May 27, 2009 - Has anyone come up with a good cultivar of Prunus Mexicana? As in, one selected from the wild? Or a hybrid with a European plum? I'd like one in my yard (I have also wanted a good Purple Leaf Plum, b...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center