The past two years of mild winters have led to an outbreak of pests in the Ohio River Valley. Tulip Poplar trees in the region are being threatened by usually large numbers of the tulip scale insect- which attaches to twigs on tulip poplar trees, sucks sap out of the bark and releases a clear, sticky sugary substance that’s commonly called “honeydew.”
The honeydew is annoying—it falls onto lawns and cars—but the real danger is to the trees. Phil Marshall is the director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology. He says the scale insects are native to the region, and they’ve co-existed with tulip poplars in the past. But the past two years of mild winters mean the insects are out of control.
“Those cold temperatures can help to kill off the population and bring it back down to the normal background level where we always have a few around, they just don’t do that much damage to the tree at all.”
Marshall says there’s a double threat for the tulip poplars this year. The trees will be weakened by the large number of scale insects, but they’re also very sensitive to hot temperatures and drought this summer could kill them.