Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sapsuckers drill new holes each spring

     Rows of shallow holes carved into pecan trunks is the sure sign of Yellow-bellied sapsucker activity.
In the photo at right, two new holes have been drilled to the right of three holes made the previous season by this bird.
    Sapsuckers drill holes in the bark starting at pecan bud swell. These birds create the holes in order to feed on the abundant and sugary sap that is flowing up the tree trunk in early spring. You will find that sapsuckers prefer certain pecan cultivars over others. I have never seen a 'Stuart' pecan tree that isn't riddled with sapsucker holes.
Sapsuckers are migratory birds (photo at left). They overwinter in Central America and spend the summer breeding season in the far northern States and Canada. This means that in our area, yellow-bellied sapsuckers are just 'passin thru' each spring and fall.  They drill holes in the bark and feed on sap in the spring, then primarily feed on insects during the fall migration.
     Although truck damage can look awful, a well tended pecan tree can withstand sapsucker feeding without significant yield loss.