Tie a sticky ribbon ’round the old oak tree

And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the  earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field.   (Exodus 10:5)

canker worm
As many of you  know, those little green cankerworms
invaded Cackalacky again this spring.
They’ve disappeared now that their larval stage is over,  but they  left a wake of destruction.   The leaves on our fruit trees and blueberry bushes look like Swiss cheese.  While not fatal for these plants, the damage certainly contributes to our under-performing fruit harvest.

Last month  they were everywhere, in places like  our front yard, chewing up the leaves on our enormous oak tree (apparently oak is their favorite.)   Often they would bungee jump off  the  tree, tied to a little silk thread, landing on my face, arms, or slithering down the back of my shirt.  Once Shawnna picked four  of them off me before bedtime.  Whenever I walked outside, I’d   hear a crackling noise, reminding me of the sound of sleet or frozen rain.  My neighbor told me that  the crackling sound was  the gentle falling of  worm excrement.  The horror!

It’s so bad down in Charlotte that the city actually  has a municipal program to control  73,000 acres of cankerworm infestations.  That’s about 40% of the city.

bandingTree banding seems to be the most effective way to deal with these worms.  The sticky bands prevent the moths  from crawling up the tree to lay their eggs, but they must be installed in November, because December is moth mating season.

You can use a strip of cotton or insulation and wrap it around the tree, at least three feet from the ground, placed below the lowest limb.  I’ve seen a lot of folks use staples to hold the strip in place.  (One website recommends positioning a band of roofing felt over the strip and then attaching it with s staple gun.)  Of course you don’t want to use staples on small trees, so try using something like electrical tape to hold the strip in place.

The next step is to coat the band with a sticky substance that prevents the moths  from inching up the tree, such as Tanglefoot glue.   The sticky band should be kept in place until the larvae disappear in April.

We’ll know better next time around!




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