Inching Up

Our city officials want big things for Charlotte.  They’d like us to catch up with Atlanta and indeed, we’re coming right along with traffic and sprawl.

For awhile, we had two of the country’s largest banks here, but Wachovia blew that, so we have to look elsewhere for city pride.   We are still holding our own in catsup eaters and overweight people.   The two may go hand in hand–with French fry grease on the fingertips.

One area in which we’ve been No. 1 in the past is our trees.   We like to be thought of as the City of Trees and we do grow them large and lovely (without catsup, thank you) but our #1 recognition came from something IN the trees:  we had  the worst cankerworm problem in the country.  Entomologists don’t know why, for the next city with a similar  infestation was Regina, Saskatchewan.  Not exactly “just up the road a piece.”

An ant moving a rubber tree plant is not nearly as surprising as cankerworms de-foliating a huge oak tree in under 48 hours.  It isn’t simply the aesthetics of having naked trees, but since the worms start munching the tender green leaves in spring,  the trees sometimes try to grow new leaves and are stressed  to the point that they may die.

If you learned the Inchworm song as a child,  let me disabuse you of any warm fuzzy thoughts.  The female moths are wingless and must climb up the trees to lay their eggs along the limbs and branches.  The males, on the other hand, can fly, so they lounge around in the foliage, tell dirty jokes and do wolf whistles until the females climb up to join them.

The trick for breaking that cycle is to stop the females from attending the frat party.  Here’s how we handle it:

And the band goes on. . . !
Tree garters.

That’s our  “tree guy” banding our trees in December.  He applied tar paper,  some kind of cottony lining,  and some goopy stuff called Tanglefoot.  It may look simple, but timing is everything here.  If it’s put it up too soon, the leaves stick to it and the moths climb right over.   If it’s applied  too late, the females have already made it up the tree and the ground underneath is littered with tiny beer bottles which, to the average person,  look just like acorns.

It must go up on a precise schedule, only after the first hard frost.   That used to be around Thanksgiving, but now it’s closer to Christmas.  The city arborist actually watches and notifies citizens when the females freshen up their lip gloss and start their hike.   Then and only then do we get the official notification.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your banding.

Our neighborhood is lucky to have its own arborist who has been studying cankerworms for over 20 years.  Go here for gross pictures.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll get word that it’s time to remove the bands.  We shouldn’t have to carry umbrellas like we did in 2007 when it rained chartreuse cankerworms.  The cankerworms spin silk threads and float down on them,  so it felt like we were walking through cobwebs.

The city’s efforts, including spraying BT, have been so successful that we may have to give up our rating and go back to catsup and overeating.   Here’s four minutes of Charlotte on a cloudy day as viewed from the back of an aerial sprayer, in case you’re interested.

Yoo hooo. . . Saskatchewan. . . !  Even though Charlotte calls itself the Queen City,  you can have the cankerworm crown.


7 thoughts on “Inching Up

  1. Something must be wrong with me because I totally clicked and went searching for the gross pictures.

    Those bad boys! Always getting away with it, partying away, not a care in the world, while the gals work so hard just so they can either end up looking after 200 eggs, or dead.

  2. They are, indeed, disgusting. I lived in Edmonton, Alberta, for a few years, and we had them to a degree. Bleh. (BTW,although I don’t live in Charlotte, I do MT for a nephrology clinic there. I think I know the names of every doctor in Charlotte. Not something I ever thought I’d need to know, but there you have it. )

  3. Wow, chastity belts for trees! I can sympathize because we have “oak wilt” here in Texas (all through the South presumably). It’s a fungus that gets into the tree roots and can kill a tree in a month. Problem is, most oaks share common root structures, so if one in the family gets it, the rest will too.

    Our nitwit neighbor at our last property out in the country spread the wilt by bulldozing around the trees that ran along the property line and they all died, one after another. I would have loved to use some Tanglefoot on him and his ‘dozer.

  4. Hi Nary Lee!

    I got back from Colorado yesterday on the red eye and spent the day in a coma trying to get things done while half asleep! I loved spending a week with my grandson ..he is so cute and I don’t see him enough!

    Here in NYC we lost many wonderful old and beautiful trees because of a terrible storm this past weekend. It’s so sad! I hope that your city can defeat this worm and save your trees.

    Thanks for all your nice comments about The Irish Hunger Memorial. I hate seeing how St. Patrick’s Day turned from being a day of pride and thankfulness to an excuse to get drunk. I thought a little reminder to everyone of Irish descent ( me included as my Dad was of Irish descent!) that the reason you are here was because of the great hunger and social injustice. Life did not improve here for many years and great struggle either. The St Pat’s parade was a celebration of overcoming all those hurdles and prospering.

    Hope you have a wonderful ♣ St.Patrick’s Day! ♣

  5. The thought of any worms creeps me out. So I have no sympathy for the male worms all hanging out and nothing to show for. As for the beer bottles and frat parties etc, THAT image is hilarious! I thought, if the band goes on too late, you’d see lots of cigarette butts. 😉

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