Explore Plants

Share

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
    
 

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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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

Due to drought is pruning live oaks beneficial from Houston
December 07, 2011 - Would it be beneficial (presuming a continued spring drought) to prune live oak trees more severely than usual this winter? I'm thinking that it might help them to have less mass to support.
view the full question and answer

Growing Dwarf Yaupon Holly in Texas
December 04, 2013 - We planted 10 extra dwarf yaupons in our Austin front yard. They were identified as 'Gremici' dwarf yaupon. I googled them to get more information about them in order to determine why five have di...
view the full question and answer

When to transplant volunteer Cedar Elms in Cedar Park, TX?
October 11, 2012 - We have a number of volunteer cedar elms we would like to transplant. When is the best time to do this? Should they be potted first and later transplanted or transplanted immediately? Thanks.
view the full question and answer

Watering oaks during drought in Austin
July 29, 2009 - Should we be watering our live oaks and Spanish oaks during this drought? How often and how much?
view the full question and answer

Why do conifers kill Texas hummingbird sage from Gray GA
April 15, 2014 - Why do conifers kill Texas hummingbird sage?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.