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The Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

The Sapsucker, the Maple Tree, and the Honeybee

The Sapsucker the Maple tree and the Honeybees are friends in winter.

The Yellow Bellied Sapsucker is a shy but common woodpecker in the eastern U.S. Their habit is to drill shallow holes in horizontal lines on medium to large hardwood trees. These shallow holes in most trees become hiding places for insects. The Sapsucker returns and has dinner already waiting. The holes drilled in Maple trees in winter are deep enough to allow the sap to run on days where the temperature is below freezing at night and above freezing during the day.

The Sapsucker and the Maple Tree
The Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

This running sap is where the benefit to bees begins. Honeybees will stir during winter on days when sunshine and temperature allow. Their desire is to begin to forage which is a futile venture if the snow still covers the ground. But the running sap on the Maple trees is an excellent source of sugar for those foraging bees. There may not be enough there to make a honey crop from but, there may be enough to balance out the energy used during these winter excursions.

The Sapsucker and the Maple tree
Bees gathering Maple sap

This new source of food entering the hive also signals the queen to begin to lay eggs so there will be bees ready to harvest the nectar of spring.

These warm days during winter also allow the bees to do much needed housekeeping duties. They remove any filth that has accumulated and carry out the bodies of older bees who have died.

Having some maple trees nearby the hives is an added bonus to the routine winter activities of warm winter days.

Maple trees and Willow trees are some of the first trees to bloom in spring. So early in fact, that some years the flowers freeze. Most years they are the first source of pollen and nectar that bees are able to gather. Pollen is the protein that feeds the brood and nectar is the carbohydrate that provides energy. Lengthening days and new sources of food really send the message to the queen to crank up brood production and soon the bee numbers in the hive recover from the natural aging losses of winter.

Red Maple Flowers
Red Maple Flowers

There are three main species of Maple in the eastern U.S. the Red Maple, the Silver Maple, and the Sugar Maple. all three are useful to honeybees though the Red and Silver Maples bloom earliest.

One seldom thinks of woodpeckers and honeybees having anything in common but, both find nourishment from our stately native maple trees.