Autumn Blaze Maple and sap sucker birds



I have sap suckers that have damaged a section of my autumn blaze maple. the maple is dripping sap down its trunks and I can see a number of wholes in the bark at about 10-12 feet above ground. the tree has been in for 3 years, and is growing well. is this just part of nature, or is it something to be concerned about? I also have two types of woodpeckers that could have started the holes, but it is sapsuckers that I see around it now.


Gwen Rattle  April 1 2021

Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners about caring for your beautiful Autumn Blaze Maple.

The damage you describe could be caused by the Sphyrapicus varius, or yellow-bellied sapsucker that you have seen. This is a species of woodpecker, which perches on branches of the maple to drill holes about 1/4 inch in diameter in vertical and horizontal rows.  These tiny holes could be enlarged by the bird to ease the consumption of the sap with its brushlike tongue.   If insects then invade the holes,  the sapsucker will also then eat the insects.

The sapsucker is a protected species, so the best treatment would be to wrap burlap around the infected area, to discourage possible continued damage. Other items such as shiny pie tins, streamers, and even beach balls may be used to scare them away. Please use the link below to see the complete article from Washington State University on this topic.


recognizing sapsucker damage