Photographed by Bette Jackson
If you are have difficulty playing the audio click here
Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. When you see the rows of holes made by a sapsucker in a favorite tree, you may not think too kindly of this woodpecker, but there's more to a sapsucker's sap wells than meets the eye. A healthy tree easily endures the sapsucker's wells. A healthy tree visited by a sapsucker will have few holes, and these will be placed in horizontal rows. A sapsucker may return to such trees and add a few new holes. Horizontal rows of sapsucker wells signal that the sap sucker is searching for food, but not finding it. Most healthy trees don't produce sap with a high sugar content. In contrast, a sick tree releases stored sugars to provide energy to fight its disease and seal off infected tissues. You might liken the tree's response to disease to our own response to infection; we too mobilize nutrients to fight infection, this is reflected by our having a fever. If a sapsucker finds a diseased tree with sweet sap, it excavates sap wells up or down the tree, following the sweet vein. Vertical rows of sapsucker holes on a tree can be an early warning that you've got a diseased tree that's struggling to survive.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.