Tree Damage Series: Why Does This Tree Look Like A Colander?
Ever wonder what these holes may be?
These neat lines of shallow holes on this Crabapple tree (Malus spp.) are examples of sapsucker (Sphyrapicus spp.) damage. Sapsuckers are a group of American Woodpeckers made up of 4 species. While they do also forage for insects, nuts and fruits, they are easily recognized for their method of boring into and maintaining sap wells on live tree trunks by drilling through the bark to access the cambium layer. See below a common species we see around New York City, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Courtesy of audobon.org by Linda Huffman/Great Backyard Bird Count Participant
Though unsightly, it isn’t incredibly harmful to the tree’s growth, but will slightly increase the chance for infection. They precisely follow the trunk all around with the holes spaced closely apart, and the sap sucker will not drill into a previous hole, because once it heals, the sap will not run through that channel in the same way, if ever.
So next time you notice this damage on a tree in your local green space, or even in your own backyard, keep your eyes peeled, because there may be a woodpecker just a few flaps away.