This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
D. S., Newburgh, N. Y., writes: " I trust you will pardon me for asking of you some information in relation to what is usually called Honey Dew.
From my boyhood I have noticed that at certain seasons of the year, usually about the middle or latter part of June, the leaves of certain of the forest and fruit trees were covered with a viscid saccharine substance, not very unlike honey in substance and taste, hence for want of a better name, the farmers gave it that of honey dew. By informing the readers of your valuable magazine what this substance is, and how it is produced, you will confer a favor and satisfy many an anxious mind. If as Chambers asserts in his Encyclopaedia, under the head of Honey Dew, it is an exudation from the leaves, how shall we account for its being found only on certain kinds of trees, and also in greater quantities on some than other years. From observation I have learned that at times it has been found on the Oak, Chestnut, Elm, Cherry, &c; and this year, I am reliably informed, it was found in equal quantity covering the share of a plow that had been left exposed on the surface of the ground over night, not far from an elm that was covered with it, the wood portion of the plow showing no indication of its presence. Some to whom the matter has been referred, insist it is an animalcule, but give no satisfactory reason for its appearance.
Others with far less reason assert that it is produced by the aphides that are often found apparently feeding on it.
Thus you see the dilemma that we are in; can you extricate us from it?"
[Honey dew is a secretion from the foliage, resulting from the change of starchy matter which always exists in the leaves of plants, into saccharine. Sometimes it is produced in such abundance as to fall to the ground; and we know of no reason why it might not be on the wood as well as the iron of a plow, except that it did not happen to fall on the wood, - or the wood might have absorbed the liquid. We could not give the " why" of this question, unless we examined the case ourselves.
Why honey dew only appears on certain trees, or in greater quantities or none at all some years than others, must be answered pretty much as one would answer a question why some people had dropsy or none at all. The production is abnormal, and depends wholly on unusual circumstances for its production. Very little is known of the precise way in which the honey dew is brought about. Perhaps if those who had the opportunity to observe had not, as they have concluded, - aphides always at the root of it, - we might know more than we do. - Ed. G. M].
Of course we knew that many intelligent persons of the olden times believed "Aphides" to fully account for all appearances known as Honey Dew, but we did not know that some of the leaders in modern thought in England clung to this effete notion. It appears that Sir John Lubbock holds to the idea that all Honey Dew is merely excretions from Aphides, and this has induced an intelligent correspondent of Gardening Illustrated to give a piece of his mind,from which we break the following crumb: "The sooner Sir John Lubbock and other writers correct their erroneous impressions the better it will be for science. It is not creditable to the latter that at this time of day there should be any doubt on such a simple matter".