Sapsucker Sap Wells


Okay, say that title 5 times without tripping over your tongue.

Sapsuckers do, indeed, suck sap. It’s their main food source, though they also dine on insects, especially ones attracted to sap.

Sap wells are the holes that yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill into live trees. Once you’ve seen sap wells, you can’t mistake the lines of organized holes for anything else.

In the spring sapsuckers drill deep round holes (into the tree’s xylem for the botanically inclined) to catch the sap rising from the roots up to the branches.

Later, after the tree has leafed out, they drill shallow, rectangular holes (into the phloem) to catch the sap being sent down the tree to be stored in the roots.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are frequent visitors to our yard. For years they have dined on the sap from lilac, saskatoon and mountain ash.

This year, for the first time, I caught a sapsucker family feeding on a large aspen.

Search YouTube if you’d like to see these suckers in action. 🙂

Yellow-bellied sapsucker   Sphyrapicus varius
Aspen   Populus tremuloides


2 thoughts on “Sapsucker Sap Wells

  1. I’ve heard of the bird, of course, but I’m almost certain I’ve never come across their holes. From what I could tell at a quick glance, they are in Texas, but tend to hang out in the piney woods of East Texas, which makes perfect sense.

    By the time they got done with their work, a few of those trees looked like loofahs. Are they are noisy as our woodpeckers when they’re at work?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like loofahs? Love your description! Sapsucker tapping is quieter I’d say … the other woodpeckers hammer on dying or dead wood (searching for insects) and it’s usually quite noisy, especially the pileated. They’re great fun to watch, tossing large chunks of wood every which way. 🙂


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