Tulip Tree Bugs Not Being Kind to Cars in Indiana
Folks in the Bloomington, Indiana area are wondering why their cars keep getting bombarded with a sticky, shiny sap-like substance.
Blame the bugs, official say.
The tulip tree scale, which in the spring inserts its straw-like mouthpart into tender limbs on the state's official tree, has been on a tear lately and sucking out the sap. Because of the mild winter, officials are saying that the little critters are prolific and thriving. One tree can be home to tens of thousands.
Here's the kicker: that substance that ends up on cars? It's insect urine.
"That's technically what it is, but can't you find a nicer way to say it?" Phil Marshall, a specialist in insect and plant pathology for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said in an interview with the Star Press. He has studied plants and insects since the 1970s, and has talked to old-timers in the field, and no one has ever seen anything quite like it.
The liquid is being called "honeydew" by Marshall and other experts because at a distance, "it's shiny like the dew in the morning."
Marshall told the paper that he has seen single trees infested, "but never a wave like this."
The tulip poplar bugs are at their immature stage, and the trees are in the midst of spring growth, Marshall told the paper, so it may be a month or longer before woods-dwellers see any relief from the gooey bug waste. "Maybe by the Fourth of July," he said.
And it's too late in the season to do anything to lessen the mess. "Right now, it's late to try and stop it."
Plants and foliage beneath the trees likely will turn dark and be covered with a black mold as summer advances, as will the trees' branches and leaves. The plants will survive, he told the paper, but the trees the bugs are sucking sap from may not unless a hard winter fends off a heavy infestation next spring.
The bug can also be found on basswood, persimmon, magnolia, catalpa, redbud and walnut trees.