Has honeydew protein

Garden knowledge: honeydew

Honeydew is clear like dew and sticky like honey, which is why the name of the liquid can be easily derived. Everyone knows the phenomenon when a car or bicycle parked under trees is covered in a sticky layer after just a few hours in summer. It is honeydew, the excretory product of leaf-sucking insects.

What is honeydew exactly?

Honeydew is secreted by insects that feed on the leaf sap of the plants. The largest producers are probably aphids, but scale insects, leaf fleas, cicadas and the whitefly can also be responsible for the sticky excretions. The insects pierce the leaf or stem of the plant in order to get the nutrient sap, which is transported in the so-called sieve tubes. This juice consists of a lot of water and sugar and, in significantly smaller quantities, of nitrogen-containing protein compounds. But it is precisely these protein compounds that the insects need and metabolize. On the other hand, they can excrete the excess sugar and honey, which then settles as honeydew on the leaves and stems of the plants.

The honeydew or sugary juice in turn attracts ants and other insects that feed on it. Ants can literally milk the aphids by "teasing" the aphids with their antennae and thereby encouraging them to release honeydew. In return, the ants keep aphids' predators such as the larvae of the ladybirds away from the colonies. Hoverflies and lacewings also like to take in the sweet honeydew, as do bees.

In forests, huge amounts of honeydew are produced, which are collected by bees and from which beekeepers produce the wonderfully dark forest honey. This number is astonishing: In a forest area of ​​10,000 square meters, leaf-sucking insects secrete up to 400 liters of honeydew every day! In the case of the linden trees, the production of honeydew is closely linked to the flowering period, as the aphids then multiply rapidly. It is therefore often assumed that it is the linden blossom nectar that pollutes the vehicles parked underneath, but in fact it is the excessively produced and dripping honeydew.

In an interview with MEIN SCHÖNER GARTEN editor Dieke van Dieken, plant doctor René Wadas reveals his tips against aphids.
Credits: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera and editing: Fabian Primsch

What is honeydew made of?

The composition of the honeydew is influenced on the one hand by the sucking insect species and on the other hand by the host plant. What is remarkable, however, is the high sugar content of the honeydew, as the water it contains evaporates quickly and the liquid is thickened as a result. Sugar contents of 60 to 95 percent can be measured and are therefore significantly higher than the sugar concentration in the flower nectar. The main sugars in honeydew are cane sugar (sucrose), fruit sugar (fructose) and grape sugar (glucose). Amino acids, minerals, trace elements, formic acid, citric acid and certain vitamins can also be detected in smaller quantities.

Why does honeydew turn black over time?

Usually it does not take long and black and sooty fungi settle on the sticky excretions of the honeydew. There are many different types of mushrooms that decompose the energy-rich honeydew and use it as food. As a result, the dark color of the fungal lawn lets much less light penetrate the leaves of the plant, which greatly reduces photosynthesis and damages the plant parts or the whole plant. The reason for this, in turn, is that too little light energy hits the chlorophyll in the cell organelles, which actually activate the photosynthesis process. Without photosynthesis, however, the plant can no longer produce nutrients and withers.

How do you remove honeydew from a plant?

The plant is damaged on the one hand by aphids and other pests sucking the energy-rich leaf sap, on the other hand by the sooty fungi that settle on the sticky honeydew excretions of the leaf suckers. As a preventive measure, you should check the plants regularly. Aphids can reproduce asexually and thereby develop large colonies in record time, which then sit in clusters on the plants. It is easy to rinse them off with a sharp jet of water or - which is better for sensitive species - to wipe them off with a cloth. Also, watch out for ant trails leading to the plants: ants can move aphids even closer to their burrow. Fresh honeydew can be washed off the leaves with warm water. If, on the other hand, a dark mushroom lawn has already formed, you should mix curd soap or neem oil into the water and wipe the leaves with it.