The sapsucker is a bird that drills holes in rows or rings around the trunks of your trees - especially young live oaks. Do they hurt anything? You bet they do. Mistakenly called a woodpecker, the beautiful red-headed sapsucker is lovely to look at but a real menace. When a tree is in stress, the sugars concentrate to help fight infirmities and to help repair injuries. Certain animals like the sapsucker can detect that. We know this from research at the USDA;s Northwest Forest Experiment Station. This theory is also backed up by Lawrence Kilhan in his book Woodpeckers of Eastern North America. The birds like the sweet sap and drill the holes in tidy rows so the sap flows and is easy to suck up. Other animals will also take advantage of the sweet oozing sap, including butterflies, other birds, and squirrels. To solve the problem splash some hydrogen peroxide on the wounds, and then smear on some homemade Tree Trunk Goop which is one third each – compost, soft rock phosphate and natural diatomaceous earth. Then apply the Sick Tree Treatment to improve the health of the tree so the sapsucker won’t be attracted. To help keep these beautiful pests from damaging your trees in the first place, use the gentle organic fertilizers only, none of the high nitrogen synthetic stuff, make sure the soil isn’t compact, avoid physical damage to trunks and limbs and maintain the proper soil moisture.Here are some web sites with additional information on sapsuckers:
Q. I’ve been told that my new red oak trees need to have paper wrap applied to the trunks to prevent borers. Is there any way to avoid having to do that? It really looks bad. – E.L., Dallas
A. The way to avoid that ridiculous advice is just ignore it. No competent arborist recommends wrapping paper, gauze, burlap or anything else around the trunks of trees. Not only does the artificial covering not benefit the tree from an insect control standpoint, it doesn’t help in any way. On the contrary, wrapping tree trunks causing injury. It gives insects and disease pathogens a nice dark, protected place to hang out. When the wrapping is removed, the trunk will resemble your finger when a bandage has been left on too long. I have planted many thousands of trees since 1970 and none of them have had their trunks wrapped.
By the way – those same misguided folks will also recommend staking and thinning out newly planted trees. Two more bad ideas.