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Old 02-15-2012, 04:16 AM
Location: N of citrus, S of decent corn
34,525 posts, read 42,694,765 times
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We have a wax myrtle tree next to the driveway. A woodpecker is on it ALL THE TIME, pecking a lot of holes in it. Obviously the tree must have some sort of bug infestation, making it very attractive to the woodpecker.
My DH keeps chasing it away, but I wonder if the woodpecker eating the bugs will HELP the tree?
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Old 02-15-2012, 06:04 AM
Location: East of Seattle since 1992, originally from SF Bay Area
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Woodpeckers first make holes in the tree then bugs are attracted to the sap in the holes, allowing them to go back and feed on them, so no, they are not good for the tree. Eventually the number and size of the holes will cause the tree to tip over and break, if rot doesn't get it first. The best method to save the tree is to wrap the trunk with cloth/duct tape so that the woodpecker cannot get to the bark.
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Old 02-15-2012, 08:06 AM
567 posts, read 792,816 times
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Woodpeckers only feed on trees where there are carpenter ants and other bugs/termites. the woodpecker alleviates the problem and is not the cause. They stimulate the bark allowing for oxygen. BTW wrapping duct tape around the bottom of the tree will have about as much usefullness as wrapping duct tape around the human head....get it?
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Old 02-15-2012, 08:32 AM
2,063 posts, read 6,239,867 times
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There are a lot of varieties of woodpeckers but most of them have 3 reasons for pecking. I got a big "education" on this when one decided to go crazy on my newly done shake siding in my old home a few years back. Up to that point all the woodpeckers we had in the yard had been happy to make holes in old trees that had been home to carpenter ants and where some borer damage was evident.

The first reason is they hear or see insects on and within the tree or siding of the home they are pecking on. The will peck holes up and down where ants or borers are located and insert a tongue to pull out the insects. They don't make holes in perfectly healthy trees without insects present.

The second is to advertise for a mate or announce a territory like a song bird does with tweeting.. If it is the beginning of spring in your area this could be the reason. If our tree makes just the right sound for his/her advertising they may keep coming back until mating season ends and then stop for a while. Related to this is they also enlarge holes in softer wood to make nests. If the damage is to one small area that is being enlarged this may be the reason.

The third reason is for only one kind of woodpecker, the sapsucker. They actually eat sap and will make neat rows of small holes to lick up sap.

If it isn't mating season chances are the tree is infested with some insect, like Carpenter Ants that the woodpecker(s) is/are trying to get at for food. You may need to have an arborist look at the tree and recommend treatment to get rid of the insect/ant/borer.

You can also cover the area the woodpecker keeps coming back to with a piece of hardware-cloth (looks like screens with larger holes) tacked over the bark where the holes are. Just don't wrap the tree in it since the tree will not be able to grow after a while.

Cornell University has a good site with pictures for helping ID which woodpecker which might help you figure out why it is going after your tree as well as an excellent description of what they do and why: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The following is a helpful guide in (layman's terms) with a gardeners perspective for repairing and prevention of more damage: How To Prevent Woodpecker Damage To Trees
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Old 02-15-2012, 08:35 AM
Location: N of citrus, S of decent corn
34,525 posts, read 42,694,765 times
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Well, I just don't know what to believe now. All I know is the aluminum foil my DH wrapped around the tree looks totally stupid.
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Old 02-16-2012, 07:08 AM
Location: Swiftwater, PA
13,118 posts, read 10,560,296 times
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Since your tree is an ornamental why don’t you consider systemic insecticides for trees? You can Google and many will pop up. I personally do not think I would go that route if I had fruit trees, vegetables or a well close to the tree - although some companies claim the are environmentally safe.

The idea is to get rid of any pest that cause the woodpeckers to single out that tree. I have sprayed some of my trees, that were woodpecker targets, with ant and termite insecticides - that also seems to help. However; the spray on only last so long where the systemic should last longer.

On the subject of woodpecker mating calls: I had a flicker that drove me nuts one spring. It decided that my aluminum rain gutters produced just the right note. Every morning, at the crack of dawn, it sounded like a crew of jackhammers on my roof. He did not do any damage - just to our nerves. There were a few times that I wish that I could have left my 12 gauge have a little discussion with him. Fortunately for him and us; he lost interest and moved on.

Anyway; good luck!
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Old 02-16-2012, 07:28 AM
Location: Out there somewhere...
38,673 posts, read 45,016,991 times
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It's Mother Nature at work, let her alone, there's a reason for her work.
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Old 02-16-2012, 07:31 AM
Location: Lower east side of Toronto
10,589 posts, read 10,315,657 times
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The bird is cleaning the tree of bugs that eat into the tree - I often wonder how a wood pecker can think - while it rattles it's own little brain all day long..
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Old 02-16-2012, 09:17 AM
102 posts, read 512,348 times
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A woodpecker in your tree indicates the tree is diseased, dying, or dead.

Keep in mind even though a tree shows leaves, it can still be 'dead.'
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Old 02-16-2012, 09:58 AM
Location: WA
5,292 posts, read 20,697,476 times
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Originally Posted by J&Em View Post
The second is to advertise for a mate or announce a territory like a song bird does with tweeting..
Exactly... I get woodpeckers every spring and notice them because they peck on the metal exhaust vents on the house.
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