Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

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
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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 Pests Questions

Black Sap from Live Oak in Austin, Texas
April 20, 2015 - We live in South Austin and our neighbor has several beautiful, enormous Live Oak trees whose canopies hang over into our yard. This past week, they've begun dripping some sort of black sap all over ...
view the full question and answer

Berry-looking parasites on live oak leaves
September 20, 2013 - Dripping Springs TX Live oaks. What are these berry looking parasites on my tree's leaves. As many as 4 1/4 in berries per leaf. I have 3 acres with dozens of liveoaks all having them on the leav...
view the full question and answer

Box elder beetles in Austin TX
February 02, 2012 - We have an large infestation of box elder beetles. They are crawling all over the yard and sometimes on the outside of the house. When you walk in the yard a cloud of them rises up and fills the air. ...
view the full question and answer

Red spider mites in native bluebonnets in Austin
April 02, 2008 - What would you do if the WFC bluebonnets developed a bad case of red spider mites? That is what has happened to many of mine here in Austin. I noticed them the other day and I must have been asleep be...
view the full question and answer

White sticky stuff on muscadine grape vines from Chappells SC
August 17, 2013 - Muscadine vine has white sticky substance on leaves and vines, what is it?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.