Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Wednesday - August 22, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Tiny holes oozing sap from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My ash tree becomes loaded with butterflies on the trunk. At closer inspection, I see they are drinking sap which is coming from small holes in the trunk. Are the butterflies creating the holes? I don't see any other creature besides the usual ants (not many) on the trunk. Are the butterflies boring into my tree? Are they hurting it? I only see activity on the trunk of the ash tree. Thank you.

ANSWER:

This particular member of the Mr. Smarty Plants Team once watched a gentleman downy (or ladderback) woodpecker bring three nestlings to a live oak trunk outside my kitchen window for pecking lessons. The little birds lined up and dutifully watched as Dad did a sample peck; then they would do their lessons. Over the years, other families used the same schoolroom, and there were little lines of pecks all around the (undamaged) live oak. I have since moved away from that tree,  but I wonder if it is still visited by my bird friends. Other birds that leave holes in bark, hunting for insects and sap are sapsuckers. They can actually do a little damage, but a healthy tree should be fine. The ants you see on the trunk are going for the same sap, unless they are on the way up to tend their aphid farms in the leaves. But on the bright side, what a neat way to attract butterflies down to where you can see them closely.

 

More Pests Questions

Need bug repelling plants in Arlington, VA
February 08, 2010 - What kind of plants are best bug repellents, and need little or no maintenance. I'm a city girl and don't like bugs (spiders)
view the full question and answer

Failure to bloom of lantanas in San Antonio
July 22, 2010 - Mr. Smarty Plants, We have lantanas in our front yard. This summer the leaves have turned white and they die to a brown color all the while the leaves are "crispy". At the beginning of the season...
view the full question and answer

Why is my recently planted Esperanza doing poorly in Texas City, TX?
May 28, 2010 - I have an Esperanza I planted about 2 months ago. It has been doing well, except today all but one stem of the plant is wilting and the leaves are rolling. I see no bugs on the plant. Any idea what...
view the full question and answer

Caterpillars attacking mountain laurel in Marble Falls TX
August 27, 2009 - What are the caterpillars that eat up our mountain laurel? Nothing left but a few stems.
view the full question and answer

Lopidea on Texas Mountain Laurel from Austin
April 16, 2012 - How do I get rid of the Lopidea ALL OVER my Texas Laurels and boring into the seed pods?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.