Sunday, November 01, 2009

Charlotte: Band your trees to fight cankerworms

(Updated Nov. 6 with added resources in the list.)
Fall commitments come fast and furious: Halloween, elections, Thanksgiving and a busy holiday season.

Somewhere in there in Charlotte, you have to squeeze in consideration of the evil cankerworms, Alsophila pometaria, which can munch through millions of fresh, green leaves in the spring, leaving sad, defoliated weakened trees.

Timing is crucial. Between the leaf drop and the first hard, continuous freezes, it’s crucial to wrap the willow oaks and other precious trees with bands to keep the female adult moth from climbing up the trees and laying eggs that will hatch into tiny green tree–killing worms in the spring.

Charlotte and surrounding areas have been Ground Zero for the worms in 2008, creating swaths of defoliated, weakened tree cover in a city known for its trees. Central neighborhoods like those in ZIP codes 28202, 28203, 28204, 28205, 28207 and 28210 have been particularly hard hit in the past.

The City of Charlotte spent more than $1 million that year spraying Bacillus thuringiensis from the air to fight the worms. You can even take a virtual ride on the plane that sprayed the city on Youtube. The Charlotte Observer updated the battle in 2009, and the story is still available.

The residual effect: Spring 2009 had fewer worms and more green, healthy trees, but we can’t count on a stressed city budget to help in 2010. Individuals need to band their trees this fall to protect trees in spring.

Plenty of information has been produced about Charlotte’s lovely worms, including a worm poem by Emily Benton and a cankerworm appreciation society on Myspace. Humor is essential, but so is tree banding.
You can get help on how to band your own trees or hire someone to do it for you.

Here are links or contact information for those who can help:

  • Help from the Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association.
  • Information and tree banding kinds from the Dilworth Community Development Association. Small kits, enough for one large tree or two medium trees, are $40. Large kits, enough for two large trees, are $70. Proceeds will be used to plant new trees next spring and band existing trees in public areas and parks.
  • City of Charlotte cankerworm information. (This link gives instructions for how to band trees, and it can also take you to a link for neighborhood matching grants to help fight cankerworms in your area. But note: The last deadline for grant applications was Sept. 15, and the next grant deadline is March 15, so the timing is off for this year unless you’ve already applied.)
  • How–to video from city arborist Don McSween:
    (Opens for me in Media Player, and I can’t find the same video on Youtube. It’s humorous but long; skip to a third of the way through if you want to get directly to how–to instructions.)
  • Good and bad banding visual examples, from McNeary Arborists.
  • Craig’s List local ad for tree banders.
  • Check out Silverduck Tree Banding Services, recommended by Heartwood Tree Services, if you want to outsource your tree banding.
  • Merry Oaks neighbor Paul Peters is banding trees again this year. His phone number is 704-575-6100.
  • Another option: Neighbors Chuck and Scott of Commonwealth Park will be banding trees again at affordable rates. Call 980-428-3696. (Information from the Commonwealth Park Google group.)

Do it. I’ve seen the dogwoods and the damage done.

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