I have a problem with something gnawing the bark off a hedge of honeysuckle...

Asked April 14, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT

I have a problem with something gnawing the bark off a hedge of honeysuckle in my backyard. This happens during winter as I suspect food for whatever varmint is doing this becomes scarce. It's strange that only one bank of two hedges gets chewed up as you'll see from the attached photos. Just a week or so ago, overnight something did the damage I've documented. This has happened in the past, but not as severe in one instance as occurred this month. What can I do to combat this, what do you think is doing it, and from the looks of things, will these chewed up plants survive? Thanks a lot, Brad Stauffer

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

Thank you for the question. Critters can be very frustrating, I sympathize. I believe squirrels have been stripping the bark on your honeysuckle hedge. They may have been searching for water or attracted to a sweet flavor in the wood. To keep them out one needs to encase the plant material in wire mesh or get a trap and remove as many as one can. Whether or not the shrub survives will depend on how much bark was removed from the trunk. If it was girdled all the way around the tree or shrub the 'highway' which allows nutrients to be moved throughout the tree has been cut off. When the bark of a tree is removed (girdled) completely around the trunk, that part of the tree above the damaged area will die. Even though completely girdled, some trees may leaf out and remain alive for one season, but both the top and root will die the second year unless shoots have been produced below the girdled areas. Occasionally a tree may only appear to be girdled if the gnawing has not gone through the bark to the wood. Sometimes the girdled area extends less than halfway around the trunk, and new bark will grow back. http://icwdm.org/wildlife/Squirrels/BarkStripping.aspx This site also goes into great detail on how to combat the squirrels. http://www.extension.org/pages/10776/barkstripping#.U0xrdVQo5EY Here is an Extension publication that has good photos of bark shredded by squirrels and explanation why they do it.
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/3000/3045.html This site tells you how to take care of tree wounds.