Q: I just noticed today that something is eating our seven-year old Japanese maple. The damage looks fresh. There are plenty of bark chips all around the base. This tree has been beautiful and we would hate to lose it. Do you have any suggestions as to what is happening to our tree and what should we do?
A: It’s squirrels enlarging the holes left by sapsucker woodpeckers.
Japanese maples have thin bark, easy to strip off with front teeth. That’s why the damage is so wide, unlike the quarter-inch holes a sapsucker would peck.
I think your only chance for relief would be to spray a bad-tasting product on the trunk of the tree. Ropel and Hot Pepper Wax are two such products. You could also try making your own pepper concoction …but be SURE to wear rubber gloves!