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Holes in trees

By John Fulton       Send a link to a friend

[MAY 24, 2004]  Many people are reporting holes in trees. The holes are round and in a pattern either around or up and down on tree trunks. They are also usually found in a tree that has high sap flows, such as maples, gums or evergreens. These holes are caused by yellow-bellied sapsuckers.

About the time we notice the holes, the birds are gone. They migrate and bless us with their presence only about two months in the spring (around May) and again in the fall (around September). The holes can cause injury to the tree by allowing a place for insects and disease to get in -- and death if they completely girdle trees. Control is very difficult and consists of trying to scare the birds with pie pans, whirlybirds, rubber snakes or other items that make sound or sight.

If damage in an area of the tree trunk is severe, you can wrap burlap around that portion to protect it. The sticky-type products, such as Tanglefoot, would also have some effect but might cause problems for some of the non-sapsuckers in the area.

Several other causes for holes do exist. Other than sapsuckers, the main cause seen this spring has been carpenter ants. Carpenter ants are the large, black ants that are very noticeable. They get their name from where they lay their eggs -- meaning the female chews holes in wood to make a nesting galley. The damage from the carpenter ant is not of the same degree as termites. Termites digest the wood fiber and structurally weaken it, while the carpenter ants make holes in the wood and don't weaken it.


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The bad news is that carpenter ants like to nest in dead wood. If you have ant activity in a tree, odds are that there is some dead wood in the tree. You can help the situation with secondary insects by painting exposed wood with exterior latex paint or by spraying with an insecticide that has some residual.

Herbicide drift

The first group of calls has come in to the office about injured plants. The cause was herbicide injury. The leaves were distorted and wrapped, just like symptoms you can find with cornfield herbicide drift. In these cases, the drift was from those chemicals, but they were applied to lawns.

The same products that work well on broadleaf weeds in corn are also used to control dandelions, henbit, chickweed and others in yards. Some of these products can even turn into a vapor a week or so after they were sprayed and waft for over a mile.

Keep these types of events in mind as you choose products and pick a time to go after weeds in your own lawn.

[John Fulton,
Logan County Extension office]

Previous articles by John Fulton

Logan County Fair

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