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:
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.