What’s drilling all of those holes in your yard trees?

Published 4:15 pm Friday, October 14, 2016

By Ty Torrance

It could be a native woodpecker, the yellow-bellied sapsucker.  Sapsucker damage is most often seen on the main plant stem of larger woody shrubs and many trees.  Sapsucker damage is recognized by neatly spaced horizontal or vertical rows of holes in the tree trunks or on the branches (as seen to the left). These holes are usually relatively shallow in the cambium or inner bark areas. Sapsuckers use their tongues to lap up sap from the holes produced.

The “drill holes” may encircle the entire stem.  More often than not, the damage made by woodpeckers is not detrimental to tree health, but in rare cases it can lead to other problems. Holes made by the sapsucker can provide points of entry for wood decaying fungi and bacteria. The physical damage may weaken trees or shrubs, making them more susceptible to secondary diseases and insects. Home owners may mistake sapsucker damage for trunk boring insects. The holes made by borers appear more randomly and are not neatly arranged in a row pattern as with the sapsucker. The yellow-bellied sapsucker may feed on a variety of trees, but some of their favorites include maple species, pecan, birch, pine, elms, and some oak species.

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While we are talking about woodpeckers, have you ever wondered how in the world they sit up straight and hold on to a tree?  All woodpeckers have specialized feet referred to as zygodactyl.  Woodpeckers have a particular arrangement of tendons and muscles in their feet that allow them to forage in trees and basically defy the laws of gravity (pic 2).

If you have any questions, please give us a call at 229-248-3033.