Monday, February 8, 2016
WHAT ARE THESE HOLES IN MY TREE
WHAT ARE THESE HOLES IN MY TREE This time of year I get lots of calls as to what are these holes in my tree? There are a number of things that can cause holes in the trunk or branches of a tree. The first question I usually ask is: are the about ¼ inch in diameter and placed more precisely then you could do with a drill? Or are they random and various sizes? If they are random then it is most likely to be an insect. However if they are precisely placed in a straight line and about ¼ inch in diameter and uniform in size and depth it is most likely a bird known as the yellow bellied sap sucker. Yes, they are real. The sapsucker bores neat rows of 1/4-inch holes spaced closely together through the bark of trees along and around portions of the limbs or trunk. As these holes fill with sap the sapsucker uses its brush-like tongue to draw it out. The yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), a member of the woodpecker family, is a migratory bird whose summer breeding range includes the Lakes States region. The identifying field markings of adult birds are a black crescent on the breast, pale yellow belly, white wing stripe, and a crimson crown. The male also has a crimson chin and throat, distinguishing him from the female whose chin and throat are white. Although insects make up part of its diet, the sapsucker is better known for its boring of numerous holes in the bark of live trees to obtain sap, the activity from which it derives its name. The yellow-bellied sapsucker is the only member of the woodpecker family to cause this type of injury. More than 250 species of woody plants are known to be attractive to the sap sucker, but they seem to prefer oak and Mondale pine in Eddy County. However I have found just about any tree except mesquite, and salt cedar to be vulnerable to attack. Puncture wounds and resulting sap flow on branches and trunks of trees are the most obvious symptoms of injury inflicted by the sapsucker. Early in the spring the sapsucker tests many trees around its selected nesting site by making sample drillings before selecting ones it prefers. These trees, because of quantity or sugar content of the sap, are visited several times a day for the rest of the season and sometimes are used as a food source for several years. To discourage sapsuckers from feeding on a favorite shade tree, wrap hardware cloth or burlap around the area being tapped or smear a sticky repellent material, such as bird tanglefoot, on the bark. Make sure you loosen these materials often to prevent it from damaging trees as well. In commercial forests or orchards, leave favorite feeding trees of the sapsucker untreated. Birds will concentrate their feeding activities on these favorite trees, which often protects nearby trees from serious injury. Sapsuckers in search of nesting sites are especially attracted to aspen (Populus tremuloides) infected with Fomes igniarius var. populinus, which decays the heartwood and enables the birds to excavate a nest hole. But in Eddy County I have found cottonwood trees also a popular tree, and mulberry trees infected with wet wood disease to be used in this fashion. To protect a valuable timber stand eliminate such infected trees within the stand during a pre-commercial thinning; this may discourage sapsuckers from using the area, the same can be done for landscape trees. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Federal regulations promulgated under its authority prohibit shooting of sapsuckers. Shooting of this species would be an ineffective control anyway because transient birds tend to replace occasional losses to local sapsucker populations. However discouragement with a strong stream of water when seen in the trees seems to work. There are commercial available motion sensors that will turn on the water. Other deterrents like reflective ribbons, motion activated noise makers like an owl work as long as you keep it changed up and set them and forget them. Subscribe to Eddy County Ag news at: http://nmsueddyag.blogspot.com/ Eddy County Extension Service, New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. All programs are available to everyone regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. New Mexico State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Eddy County Government Cooperating.