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What's eating my greengage tree??


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Agree with Wooly:  that's woodpecker damage.  Why?  Because a) it's right into the wood of the tree;  b) it's fairly high up.

Of the other 'known damagers of trees', rabbits, beavers (!), and strimmers [:)] attack low down (naturally).  So that rules them out.  Deer are 'Mid level' operators, but they only eat or damage the bark, not the wood.  Red squirrels, the only species in France, don't attack trees much, certainly nothing like Greys do; and then only the bark.

So if it's woodpecker, which species?  Most probably Great Spotted.  It's the most common species, the size of the damage matches the bird, and the habitat of fruit trees in a garden is right too.

Unless, of course, someone else knows different ..... [:-))]


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[quote user="JeanS"]Thanks all - we do get a lot of woodpeckers in the garden.  However the plum tree was definitely ravaged by some sort of bugs. The wood was all powdery inside.  A bit like woodworm damage.[/quote]

Well that's right, of course, Jean.  It was the insects, probably larvae, hidden deep inside the tree that the woodpeckers were after when they inflicted that gaping wound!

So that prompts two more questions:

1.  What insects were they?

2.  What were the insects after?

In answer to the first, one thing I can assure you is that they were NOT termites [:)].  Lots of reasons why not, please say if you want me to expand.

To move things on, it helps to think about the second question first.  Because, if we make the assumption that these insects were munching on the wood of the tree while it was still sound and healthy, then that narrows down the possibilities a lot.  There are relatively few insects that have the ability or desire to attack healthy wood.  It's often blimmin' hard and not very nutritous to boot.  One such is a foreigner, the Asian Longhorn Beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis.  However, this lovely has only been in Europe for 20 years or so, so I suspect that wasn't it.

What is more likely is that your tree was already not feeling very well and may even have been infected by a fungus.  (In fact, most trees are 'infected' by fungi all their lives; they wouldn't survive without them.  The presence of the fungus only becomes evident when the tree is dieing.  But again, that's another story).

One of the effects fungi can have is to accelerate the breakdown of the cellular structure of wood tissue, thereby making it more available as a food source to other organisms.  Insects, for example.  And there are a few species of European beetles, and even a few species of butterflies & moths, whose grubs will feed on this timber, normally staying just under the bark.

Now it's in the nature of these beasts to often be tied to a specific host species or family.  Greengages are members of the Prunus family.  So I would be looking at a Prunus specific, wood-eating insect.

There are a few species of clearwing moths, Sesiidae, who fall into this category.  This one, for example, Synanthedon myopaeformis.

But please note:  I'm not saying it definitely WAS  .... [:D]


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