sap on tips of peach tree branches

I bought a Hale Haven peach tree at Lowe's about 9 weeks ago, and planted it with half a bag of composted cow manure under the roots. I also mixed in some of that dehydrated plastic to help it get through any dry spells.
The plant grew rapidly, and now has put on 10-12" of growth on all the branches. I was surprised about 3 weeks ago when the tallest branch suddenly flopped over. There was a small wound of some sort, and the top ~18" or so of the tree was gone. (it is about 4' tall total, and maybe 1/2" at the base.
I noticed that the fast growing tips of maybe half the branches got shriveled and crisp about a week or so ago, but only a half inch or less of the tip of each branch. I thought maybe it was during the 3 days or so we were gone, and I wasn't able to water the plants. The rest of the tree looked a healthy green.
Now I notice that the tree appears to be putting on new growth out around the former tips of each branch, with 1-2 new growths appearing. Some are already nearly half an inch in length.
However, the big problem that I see is that maybe 40% of the tips of the branches - most of them with the tip damage - are oozing a clear, gelatinous mass that stays right in the area. I'm not sure if this is just because the tree is very rapidly growing, with a lot of turgor pressure right now, or a sign of a more serious problem.
The tree had a couple of spots on the trunk where it looked like it sustained damage in shipping. Normally I wouldn't consider such a tree, but I had already tried 4 different nurseries, plus 3 or 4 of the other stores in the area that have fruit trees in the Spring. Home Depot was the only one with a Hale Haven peach, which was the variety I wanted. These spots have completely healed over now, due to the rapid growth of the plant.
There are always a number of small ants on the tree, and I've noticed some small round areas appearing at the base of each leaf. It almost looks like the ants are getting some sort of fluid there, but I'm not sure if it is actually harmful. I'm keeping my eye out for aphids, and if they appear, I'm going to spray regularly.
Anyone have ideas for what might be causing this issue? Tree appears to be growing very rapidly, and looks like it would be on track to go from about 4' tall to 6' or 7' this year, except that the sudden tip dieback and 'gelatin' on some of the branch tips worries me. I'm wondering if this might be infested with something. If so, perhaps I need to cut my losses now, take it back, and get a new tree? I'm hoping not, but still wondering.
Thanks!
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On 5/31/2010 8:46 PM, Ohioguy wrote:

Lesser Peachtree Borers?
Bob
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Sounds like tip borers, they can carry a fungus that can kill your tree.
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Do a google using the terms 'peach' and 'gummosis' and look at the pics that come up to see if this is the porblem.

More likely the ants will be farming scale insects of some sort. Ants move the scale insects around and spread them as they eat the exudate from scale insects. There are a bout a squillion differnt forms of scale but most can be treated. id try to confirm if it was scale then to treat it and do it repeatedly and the ants just might move elsewhere.
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Here are some extreme close-up photos I took of the problem this morning:
http://img34.imageshack.us/img34/9199/peach1r.jpg
http://img85.imageshack.us/img85/8543/peach2m.jpg
http://img535.imageshack.us/img535/6452/peach3.jpg
Photos are resized to ~110k so they'll load quickly
In the second one, you can also see the couple of places on the right, near the base of the peach leaf, where I think the ants are doing something to the tree - almost like they're getting sap. I don't think this is a major issue like the tip dieback and clear gelatinous mass, though.
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Those glands on the leaf bases are normal, and yes ants do feed from them. Not to worry.
The branch tips have some insect pest inside. Your third photo shows little black pellets in the exudate. Those pellets are frass (fancy term for insect shit). Cut off every tip that shows signs of trouble, back to just above the nearest leaf or bud, and seal the tips in a bag or container and send it off to the landfill.
As this is the exact variety you wanted, I would keep it. Let this be a lesson to you not to buy plants from big box stores.
    Una
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Ohioguy wrote:

I had this exact same thing in my nectarine tree a couple years ago. Once I blocked the ants at the trunk base with some Tanglefoot, then a bunch of ladybugs appeared and within weeks I had new growth without the new-shoot dieback symptom. Now I always block the ants and each spring a large population of ladybugs returns to the tree. Obviously they are feeding on some kind of insect and I was finally able to see some very small critters with a magnifying glass. Whatever they are, they are much smaller than any aphids I've seen. Anyway, I'd suggest blocking the ants and see if some beneficial predator bugs appear to clean up the pests.
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