BLOG: Special Kristen Hampton edition

Invasion of the cankerworm

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Blogs don't typically come with dedications but this one is dedicated to WBTV's Kristen Hampton. She made us all stop last week… and dance along with the majestic cankerworm.

PS: Google "cankerworm images" and you'll find Kristen's picture… twice.

She made me ask some hard questions. What's a cankerworm? How long will they be around? Do they turn into anything else? Maybe a beautiful butterfly - or a not quite as beautiful moth? Why do they love Charlotte so much? Do the bands around trees really help?

I turned to NC State's website and got some of those answers. Here are the two articles I found most helpful, if you want more info. If not, I'll tell you what I found most interesting... Maybe interesting is a relative term when you're talking about worms.

Yes, it's called Cankerworm Chronicles. Read it HERE.

And another article HERE from NC State University.

Cankerworms are the tiny green worms that love to eat the leaves of many different deciduous trees (trees with leaves/not evergreens). Their favorite tree is the willow oak. When they hatch in the spring, the baby worms climb them and eat the leaves… sometimes all of them.

The tree is forced to tap its reserves to create more leaves. Especially in older trees, if this keeps happening, it can kill the tree.

I was glad to find that they don't last all year. Spring and fall cankerworm eggs hatch in early spring and feed for 5-6 weeks. Thankfully, we're partly through that.

For the rest of the summer, they pupate in mulch and leaf litter. In October or November, fall cankerworms come out and climb nearby trees, lay their eggs and die. Spring cankerworms climb trees in the spring, lay eggs and die. No, they don't live an exciting life.

They have to climb because they have no wings. (So, no, they don't turn into butterflies or moths.)

This is good for us though. They have to climb up trees to get to the leaves. That's why those sticky bands are so effective. It's hard to keep track of so many tiny worms but studies seem to show that the bands have put a serious dent in the worm population.

Finally, I know why I love Charlotte so much. Why do cankerworms? This is a quote I found in the Cankerworm Chronicles,

Cankerworms go through periods of abundance ranging from two to seven years, followed by periods of low populations. "About twenty years ago or so, they got bad in Charlotte, and they stayed bad every year since then. Raleigh and Durham seem to be reaching a similar state too," says Frank.

They REALLY love Charlotte!

They actually always prefer urban life. In the forest, they have more predators. There is also less plant diversity so the same trees are more likely to be attacked repeatedly.

SO, there you go! That's probably more than you wanted to know about the cankerworm. The best news is that they are well into their 5-6 week spring cycle so they should be out of our hair (literally) before we know it.

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