Should I Worry About Woodpecker Damage on Trees?

Woodpeckers are a natural part of the ecosystem and help with pest control in Pennsylvania. These birds eat insects that damage trees, such as wood borers, caterpillars, and ants. However, to reach these insects, they must often drill holes.

Today, the tree experts at Mercado’s Landscaping & Tree Services, which is Philadelphia’s top-rated tree trimming service, will break down whether you should worry about woodpecker damage on trees and how to prevent it. 

Why Woodpeckers Peck Holes in Trees

Oftentimes, woodpeckers forage insects in trees where there is already a pest infestation. Thus, the woodpeckers clean up the infestation, which may help the tree become healthy again. 

If the tree is still alive, woodpeckers leave small rows of holes where they have foraged for insects. In rotting or dead trees, you may see large craters where woodpeckers have drilled for insects or created nesting cavities. 

Some woodpeckers, such as migratory yellow-bellied sapsuckers, will make small holes in trees to drink the sap. Other species may create tiny tree cavities to store food such as acorns. Finally, some species also create holes to nest in, which they will drill at a size slightly bigger than themselves. 

Can Woodpeckers Damage My Trees?

Because woodpeckers are part of the ecosystem, it is unlikely that they will cause major damage to your trees. Most woodpeckers drill small, shallow holes into healthy trees that won’t affect the tree’s health.

However, sapsuckers can sometimes cause tree girdling injuries. Girdling occurs when a section of vertical or horizontal bark becomes completely detached from the tree. This injury is dangerous to tree health, as nutrients travel through tree bark. 

Because sapsuckers create vertical or horizontal rows of holes, insects can become trapped in the sap, fully stripping that section of tree bark. Sapsuckers also tend to return to the same tree, meaning that the girdling injury can become worse. This species of woodpecker also favors fruit trees due to the sweet sap, which may mean that you have to envelop your fruit trees with an impenetrable mesh barrier. 

When creating a nesting cavity, woodpeckers tend to choose trees that are either dead or rotting. So, it is highly unlikely they will drill such a large hole into a healthy tree.

If you notice several tiny holes in your trees, you may also have a pest infestation rather than a woodpecker problem. If you holes in your trees concern you, you should contact a professional arborist to assess the tree damage.  

How to Prevent Woodpeckers from Pecking

If woodpecker damage on trees in your yard worries you, you can take some preventive measures to dissuade these birds. For example, you may wrap your tree trunks in burlap, plastic mesh, or hardware cloth. However, you must remove these materials during the summer as the humidity can cause tree rot. 

You may also hang reflective materials from your tree next to the trunk, such as reflective streamers, CDs/DVDs, or even aluminum foil to scare the woodpeckers. Finally, you can also provide a food source to distract the woodpeckers, such as suet slabs. 

Looking for Professional Tree Services in Philadelphia, PA?

If you would like to consult with a professional arborist about holes or woodpecker damage on trees, contact Mercado’s Landscaping & Tree Service LLC. We can advise you on what steps you should take to protect your trees and whether the damages will require tree removal (particularly if they stem from a pest infestation rather than woodpeckers). 

Call us at 215-764-5509 for tree services and advice in Philadelphia, PA today. Alternatively, check out other helpful topics, such as how long can a dead tree remain standing, on our blog. 

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