City Arborist: Worst cankerworm infestation in years - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

City Arborist: Worst cankerworm infestation in years

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This map shows where some of the worst outbreaks of cankerworms have been reported. This map shows where some of the worst outbreaks of cankerworms have been reported.
This list shows areas reporting heavy cankerworm infestations This list shows areas reporting heavy cankerworm infestations
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

As Spring slowly begins to heat up into full swing many Charlotte residents have taken to the outdoors, only to find that many of their neighborhood trees are crawling with thousands of little worms.

Those would be cankerworms, an annual dread for many residents across the city.

"When we come outside, you can't be anywhere underneath the trees" says Kathleen Owen. "Worms are on everything."

The Owen family says their East Charlotte property is practically over-run. And they're worried about their willow oak trees, even though they banded.

"It's a major problem" says Tim Owen. "We need some help with this. The bands obviously cannot stop these worms by themselves so we need some help."

His wife Kathleen says "it's just unpleasant and it's so bad here."

The worms hatch every spring in tree tops across the city.

In the fall, the female worms climb from the ground up the trunk of the tree and lays her eggs on the branches of trees.

In the spring the worms hatch and eat the fresh foliage off the tree before dropping down the ground.

City Arborist Don McSween says this is one of the worst years of defoliation he has seen.

McSween says right now they're a high nuisance level but they're not causing any trees to die"

City officials say they're monitoring the population and health of trees, and watching where which areas of the city are invaded.

Hard hit areas of the city include University City and the Albemarle and Rea Road corridors, McSween says.

40 percent of Charlotte is covered by a dense tree canopy and is often cited as a point of pride by city leaders.

Many have supported steps to protect and grows the city's shady streets.

But the worms and more development are the biggest threat to the trees.

In 2008, the city did an aerial spray to help control the worms.

He says it's too late to spray this year.

For residents who are feeling overwhelmed by the worms, McSween says homeowners can hire a tree company to spray big trees.

And residents themselves can spray small plants.

McSween emphasized that residents need to properly band their trees in the fall to prevent the females from climbing into the treetops.

Most females have climbed into the trees by Thanksgiving.

McSween recommends hiring a professional tree service company to have the cankerworms removed from your trees if they are infested.

It's important to water the tree religiously during the hot summer months, McSween said, and to fertilize in the early fall.

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