Uniform Holes in Tree Trunks
While many homeowners are aware of the damage boring insects can do to trees, they may be less familiar with the uniform holes of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. This bird is a woodpecker that feeds primarily on the sap of trees and woody shrubs. They migrate from the southern states in the winter to the northern states and Canada in the summer. Their favorite trees include pines, maples, birches, and elms, but they will feed on other species. Their uniform lines of holes can weaken and even kill a tree if it is completely girdled. They will often come back to the same tree every year to feed.
It is important to identify whether tree damage is caused by borers or yellow-bellied sapsuckers. These woodpeckers always leave uniform holes in lines or rectangles and generally on the tree’s main trunk. Insect damage has no pattern. If the damage is caused by a woodpecker, keep in mind that these birds are protected by state and federal law, so they can’t be hunted or poisoned. There are ways to deter them from specimen trees, however. Wrapping tree trunks in burlap while the birds are present can keep them from reaching the bark at all. Reflective tape and decoy owls with moving heads can also frighten them from the area. Sticky repellents such as “Tanglefoot” can also deter them.