Several critters cause holes in the bark of trees. Small ones spaced randomly around are usually caused by borer insects. A single row of larger holes is usually a woodpecker searching for a borer below the bark. But, if you have a series of nice rows of inch of holes one above the other, the culprit is probably a sapsucker.

There are two species of these yellow-bellied or red-breasted birds but they all have one thing in common. They feed on the sap that flows from the holes they bore into the bark of trees. At times, they pick a favorite tree and may punch many, many holes in it over several years.

Sapsucker damage can cause a decline in the vigor of the tree and may also allow the entry of disease organisms. In rare cases, the holes may go all the way around the tree and girdle it, resulting in its death.

If you see this type of damage or actually see the bird chipping away at the bark, there are few things you can do about it. Some people have tried wrapping the damaged area in burlap smeared with something sticky like tanglefoot. This may work or the bird might just move to another part of the tree.

If you live in a remote area and are tempted to just shoot the bird, be aware that you must check with your local Conservation Officer or Department of Wildlife to see if a permit is needed.

Some trees commonly damaged by sapsuckers:                

Critter Management Options:

Exclusion - Change Habitat - Trap - Repel - Poison


Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.


Copyright 2000-