Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker – tree wells

Yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), a species of wood pecker that over-winters here in Georgia, creates “wells” along the trunks and limbs of several native trees.  The sapsuckers chisel holes (wells) into the tree, and then makes return trips to lap up sap that oozes from the wells.  They’ll also feed on insects that get trapped in the flowing sap.

Damage to trees is seldom significant and is part of a natural process.

 

yellow-bellied sapsucker creating "wells" on a hickory (James Solomon, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org)

yellow-bellied sapsucker creating “wells” on a hickory (James Solomon, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org)

sap oozing from wells on red maple in December

sap oozing from wells on red maple in December

view of wells with no oozing

view of wells with no oozing

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Letting nature take its course

Pictured is a pretty cool example of how a beneficial fungus efficiently kills a serious pest of oak tree.  The pest is a type of armored scale, and is very difficult and costly to control.  Costly control is due to the protective cover it develops over its body, protecting it from insecticde treatments.  This particular armored scale is commonly called “Obscure Scale”, as it is very small and is well camouflaged – so it is “obscure”.

The orange color that you can see on the pictured oak, is a fungus that feeds upon the scale, and as you can see, is aggressively attacking the armored scale.  By recognizing a beneficial organism when it occurs, and in so doing letting nature takes its course, a more efficient and cost effective means of controlling a pests may be realized.  Also, if beneficial organisms such as the pictured fungus are recognized, a management plan that protects the beneficial can be implemented.

The picture was taken during month of February, a few years back.  So be on the look out for it during next several weeks, and if you find it, make sure that it does a thorough job of killing the scale.

Brian

Obscure Scale - parasitised

Parasitised Obscure Scale