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FEBRUARY 01 2022 /
Have you noticed something different about the Charlotte area trees this winter? More specifically, something wrapped around the truck of the area’s oldest, most beautiful hardwoods?
They’re called tree bands and while they may be considered “unsightly” by most, they actually serve a very important purpose. You see, those “ugly” bands protect the area’s trees from a very hungry, destructive pest called the fall cankerworm.
We understand you might have a few questions, so allow us to clear the air.
The fall cankerworm, better known to us common folk as the “inchworm”, is a tiny caterpillar native to eastern North America. Populations and infestations have been reported as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Texas.
Sometime between late autumn and early winter, the wingless, adult female fall cankerworm climbs into a tree to lay their eggs. These eggs then hatch in the early spring and the feast begins.
Believe it or not, these small insects can eat! By consuming the new leaves and buds of their host tree, cankerworms often cause major, sometimes irreversible damage. While healthy trees can usually recover, a cankerworm outbreak for a tree that has already been weakened by disease, drought, or is a victim of a repeat attack can be fatal.
When it comes to preventing cankerworms from causing damage, there are two effective techniques. One option is to spray the area from above with a chemical pesticide which for environmental and cost reasons, is not the prefered technique. The second is tree banding.
Tree bands use an aggressive adhesive to stop insects from climbing to the tops of trees–an entirely natural technique for preventing damage.
“Tree banding season” as we call it occurs between November and December when most fall cankerworms begin their journey upwards. But as the spring rolls around (early March, for us Carolinians), bands are no longer needed and are taken down.
Charlotte area trees are no stranger to fall cankerworm infestations. In fact, for the last 30 years, Charlotte’s cankerworm population has steadily grown. One big contributing reason is the city’s large concentration of old willow oaks (a cankerworms prefered tree).
In 1990, the city of Charlotte and surrounding towns implemented tree banding programs that banded street trees and encouraged homeowners to band.
Last year a report on tree canopy found that Charlotte’s tree canopy cover had increased to 47%. If you’ve been a resident of the area for more than a few years, you’ve probably seen the difference yourself. Fewer canker worms and many full, healthy looking trees!
According to Charlottefive, city officials would like to see 50% of the city covered by tree canopy by 2025.
Before you ask... YES, there are ways you can help! The City of Charlotte is asking citizens to help control the cankerworm population by banding their communities. Get your neighbors involved by applying for financial assistance of up to $3,000 from the city!
The following instructions are provided by Charlottenc.gov’s Let’s Band Together, How You Can Help Control The Fall Cankerworm Population guide.
The City of Charlotte’s arborist recommends Bug Barrier, Catchmaster. Stik-N-Stop, and Tanglefoot. Which are all available locally.
Avoid using staples on small, young, or thin barked trees. Instead use electrical tape. Staples on larger trees is ok, but never use nails.
*Cankerworms prever to feed on most types of hardwood trees with the exception of evergreen trees like pines, magnolias, and hollies. While smaller trees can be banded, focus your banding efforts on large trees (taller than a two-story house).
Keep an eye on your band to make sure leaves aren’t clogging the trap or that squirrels haven’t caused damage.
If bands are left on, moisture behind the bands may weaken the trunk, allowing insects easier access to the tree.
Or if you’d prefer to have an expert band your trees, just say the word (in other words, give us a call!). Our team would be more than happy to help keep your yard’s trees safe from pests and looking good with our comprehensive pest control services! Schedule an appointment today!