Flying tree surgeons
Despite hacking at them, woodpeckers actually help trees to stay healthy Trees could quickly be overcome with insect infestations without these boring birds.
It’s much better for the tree to suffer mild abrasions than to be eaten away by ravenous beetles. Ash trees are particularly susceptible to this threat from an insect aptly named the emerald ash borer.
These Asian beetles have invaded Europe and North America and have killed tens of millions of trees outside of their native range. However, woodpeckers can prevent this destruction. Up to 85 per cent of a tree’s ash borer larvae can be consumed by one woodpecker, keeping the insect numbers down to safe levels. The effectiveness of this method of control varies, but woodpeckers within the beetle’s home range do an excellent job of keeping the insects at bay.