Do Woodpeckers Eat Termites?

do-woodpeckers-eat-termites

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Woodpeckers are pretty well-named. They generally spend their days pecking at any wood they can find, using their powerful beaks to drill holes and hunt tasty bugs hiding under the bark. But, while drilling, do woodpeckers eat termites?

Woodpeckers love termites! They are a great source of nourishment as they are packed with protein. In fact, when it comes to an outdoor termite infestation, woodpeckers might be the heroes you never expected.

Why do woodpeckers like termites? 

Termites are favored by woodpeckers because they predominantly live in the dead or decaying trees they peck into. Woodpeckers aren’t particularly picky when it comes to bugs and insects that reside in trees – and termites propagate extremely quickly when they find a wood source they can feed on. 

Termites are effortless prey for woodpeckers as they tend to be indiscriminate regarding trees they build communities in. They will frequently grow and feed in fruit trees, palm trees, and conifers – but generally, the termite will head to any dead or rotting tree as they are easier to eat and digest. Given that woodpeckers prefer these plants, too, the birds are always likely to have an instant food supply.

Termites are full of protein which the woodpeckers need plenty of to keep up their strength, and to protect their brains as they peck at wood, metal, plastic, and other materials they find.  

Are woodpeckers pecking at my home for termites?

If you have a woodpecker drilling holes in your home, it could be a sign of a termite plague, but it’s an uncommon reason for their visits. 

Woodpeckers drill at wood to make nests and to store food. They may also be pecking at your home for the noise – they drill to attract mates.

It’s more likely you’ll spot other signs of a termite infestation before you notice woodpeckers making noise. For example, if your doors are beginning to stick, or if you find paint or wallpaper peeling, you may have termite visitors. Knocking on your walls to hear a hollow response may also indicate termites are eating away at your home.

Are woodpeckers useful for reducing termite populations?

Woodpeckers will happily feast on termites, but they’ll normally choose dead trees over your home to find them – meaning you can’t rely on them to get pests off your property. But, it is worth welcoming woodpeckers to your garden to reduce a host of other unwanted visitors outside.

Woodpeckers are opportunistic feeders, happily snacking on almost all types of bugs, including termites, ants, spiders, and grubs. Some of these can be nuisances – but for the full garden rewilding approach, it’s best to leave nature to its own devices. Given the option, welcoming woodpeckers to deal with invasive creatures is much more eco-friendly than using powders and sprays to kill ants and termites.

If you want to attract woodpeckers to your garden, don’t worry about your trees. It’s a misconception that woodpeckers are harmful to plants – by keeping termite and other minibeast populations in check, you can be sure your trees actually thrive for longer. 

Woodpeckers normally won’t drill away at healthy plants by choice, either – and even if they do, your trees will likely survive the attack. There’s unlikely to be termites in your healthy trees, so you can expect these birds to stay away most of the time.

What else do woodpeckers eat?  

Woodpeckers are not picky eaters, so you don’t have to worry about gathering termites to keep them well-fed. If you want to attract woodpeckers to your garden to reduce pests such as these, you can prepare a feeder full of their favorite treats for repeat visits.

For example, woodpeckers love peanuts and peanut butter. Simply placing a few plain peanuts onto your bird feeder, or spreading some peanut butter high on some tree bark will pique woodpecker interest.

Woodpeckers also like all kinds of fruit, such as apples, oranges, and even grapes – be sure to slice them up so they are easier to digest.

You can also help woodpeckers top up on insect diets if termite populations are low, or if there’s a lack of dying or rotten trees close by. If you can’t gather the insects yourself, store-bought is fine! Visiting woodpeckers will be grateful for insects such as mealworms which can be purchased either live or dried. 

Woodpeckers are particularly fond of termites because they propagate quickly in the rotting spots they peck at the most. While it’s good to keep feeders topped up to welcome these birds to your yard, they are normally self-sufficient in snatching pests from nearby bark.

About author
Graham Pierrepoint is an avid wild gardener, spending much of his spare time creating exciting spaces for local birds, bugs, and other beasties to explore! He writes regularly for Wild Yards to help share his years of flora and fauna expertise with other birdwatchers and horticulturists.

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