Charlotte arborists win battle against cankerworms - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Charlotte arborists win battle against cankerworms

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By Trent Faris - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV)  Tiny little cankerworms can take a big bite out of Charlotte's canopy.

A small wingless moth climbs up the tree in the fall.  It lays eggs in the branches.  Those eggs hatch into cankerworms in the spring.

The larva then feast on leaves, which can damage the trees and leave them open to drought and infection.

Last year cankerworms infested 40-percent of the city's trees.  Now, the city arborist says the cankerworm population has declined dramatically.  The city says this is good news - but the fight isn't over.

"I've learned this insect is very unpredictable," said city arborist John McSween.

 For 20 years city Mcsween has been the General in the fight against cankerworms.

"They've found ways to expand their populations and increase their populations," said McSween.

The number of worms got so large in 2008, the city called in an aerial attack and sprayed chemicals from the air to knock the worms for a loop.

"It went down after the spray and then really dropped this past winter," said McSween.

In 2008 the city collected a little over 1,100 worms from one tree in Dilworth. 

In 2009 they collected a little under 50.

The canker is a native to Charlotte.  Its favorite tree leaves to munch on are oak, maples and cherry trees.

John Denti at the UNC Charlotte green houses says cankers will never go away

"You're not probably ever going to see in the city of Charlotte one oak tree that doesn't have a few cankers worms on it," said Denti.

Denti says the worms are so resilient they'll be back in force once again.

"Over the years the numbers are going to build up and then it might be time for another aerial bombardment," said Denti.

That's why the city wants to recruit homeowners to make sure the worms are kept at bay, by banding trees properly, and spraying trees in yards.  Plus natural canker predators like birds help too.

"The longer we can keep the numbers this low the less likely we'll ever have to do another aerial spray," said McSween

Those of you that want to do away with tree bands for good, sorry.  The city says the bands are the front line in the war.

The city asks you to keep the bands around the tree until mid April.  After April take them down and just before Thanksgiving put them back up to keep up the fight against the pesky worms.

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