Aphids in Big Bear, June 3, 2020

The Eulachnus aphid is a common species on pines in Southern California, but has not been identified yet as the one that has made its presence known in the Big Bear area and San Bernardino National Forest.

Have you noticed an extra helping of sap falling from the pine trees around Big Bear Valley this spring? Is it wrecking your car’s paint job or sticking to the soles of your shoes?

Don’t blame the trees. It may not be pine sap.

According to Andrea Hefty, the forest entomologist for the San Bernardino National Forest, you can blame aphids for the sticky problem. Botanist Scott Eliason passed along the information to the Big Bear Grizzly.

“Andrea tells me that aphids on pine trees are having a big year up here,” Eliason said. “Nobody has gone to the effort of identifying exactly which species (of aphid) is messing up our cars and the forest floor in general.”

Eliason said that aphids are tiny insects that tap onto pine trees and feed on phloem. The waste excreted by the bugs is a sugary liquid called honeydew. The honeydew falls from the trees in tiny droplets.

“That’s the stuff that’s raining down on any cars parked under pines in Big Bear this spring,” Eliason said. “A lot of people think it’s tree sap, but it’s actually aphid droppings.”

Eliason said the substance is basically sugar, which dissolves and is easier to remove from cars. Honeydew is less damaging than sap, Eliason said. He has been able to remove the droplets by hosing down his car.

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