How do you deter a sapsucker from destroying a willow tree?


I have a relatively new golden willow in my front yard that is being slowly girdled by sapsucker holes in the bark. How do I deter the bird, protect the tree, and what should I do to prevent disease and encourage continued growth? The tree has started to send out shoots along the trunk below the damage. Can I remove those to encourage it to work on bypassing the damage and restoring sap flow to the top branches, or is that a fools errand?


Katherine Garland, Horticulturist

I’m sorry to hear that the sapsucker has damaged your young willow tree. They often hit the same trees over and over, so it can be tough to deter them from a tree once they’ve found one they really like. Using visual scare tactics, such as hanging reflective materials in the tree, may be somewhat effective. Bird scare tape, CDs, aluminum pans are all options to consider. It’s also recommended that damaged areas be wrapped with burlap during April and May and September and October, when they’re most likely to be doing the damage. The burlap should be removed during the summer months.

It’s tough to say what to do with the suckers that are developing below the wound without seeing a few pictures. I’d really like to have a better understanding of the overall health of the plant and its form before offering any advice.