Tree Banding for Fall Cankerworms
Each year, Charlotte is faced with a growing population of fall cankerworms. These worms eat the leaves of trees in early spring. Although this usually doesn't kill the tree, it does weaken the tree and make it more susceptible to other stresses, such as other insects, disease and drought, and several years of this damage can eventually cause limbs of the tree to die and weaken the entire tree.
Many people are not as concerned about the health of their tree as they are about the nuisance that cankerworms can cause. Large numbers of caterpillers spinning to the ground on silken threads, crawling or falling on picnic tables, doors, walks, and/or house siding, can create an unpleasant environment.
About the cankerworm
After mating in December, the wingless, greyish-brown female cankerworm moths crawl up the tree trunks and lay their eggs on the bark of smaller branches and twigs. The eggs are greyish-brown and neatly arranged in uniform rows.
In the spring, the tiny larvae or cankerworms at first feed on the opening buds and young expanding leaves of the tree and cause the foliage to be skeletonized. As the cankerworms mature over the next five or six weeks, they devour all but the veins of the leaves. Full grown cankerworms are about 1 inch long and vary in color from light green to brownish-green, with a darker stripe running down the middle of the back and a white stripe along each side.
How can I help control the fall cankerworm population?
The City of Charlotte is asking citizens to help control the cankerworm population by banding trees in their communities. To band a tree, the following materials are necessary and can be purchased at most hardware and garden stores: staples, staple gun, disposable elbow length gloves, roofing felt, cotton batting or fiber glass, Tanglefoot™ (glue) and a putty knife. For small trees, you can substitute electrical tape for the staples. Do not use nails.
How to band a tree
- Install a strip of cotton or insulation around the tree at least three feet from the ground and below the lowest limb. This is to block the moths from crawling up the tree--so make sure to get it in the cracks of the tree so there are no holes.
- Position a band of roofing felt over the strip and attach it to the trees with the staple gun. Avoid using staples on small, young or thin barked trees. Instead use electrical tape to hold the bands.
- Using disposable gloves and a putty knife, put a film of Tanglefoot™ (glue) directly on the band, approximately 1/8" thick.
The Fall Cankerworm will be trapped on the tree band as it climbs the tree trunk.
In order to be effective, all trees need to be banded. The worms feed on all types of trees. Large trees (taller than a two story house) are the main focus of banding. Small trees can also be banded.
The glue Tanglefoot™ should be applied after most of the leaves have fallen. If the trap becomes clogged with leaves or insects, you should clean it, renew the Tanglefoot™ or install a new trap.
The bands should be removed once the cankerworm season is over—late March or April.
There are other banding products available at some stores. For example, Bug Barrier™, is also effective against the Fall Cankerworm. Its design and convenience may work better for you. In addition, there are private contractors that will install bands on your trees for a fee.
- If the Tanglefoot becomes clogged with leaves or insects, you should clean it, or add more Tanglefoot. Otherwise, the moths will be able to climb over and up the tree.
- In the fall, discount stores sell white batting in their Christmas department--as 'snow' for decorating the house. Some people find this to be less expensive and easier to work with than fiberglass insulation.
- For less messy spring removal, first wrap plastic wrap (or newspapers) around the existing tree band to cover the sticky Tanglefoot. This will encapsulate the Tanglefoot so you will have less chance to accidentally touch it or get it on your clothes as you remove it. Then cut the band with a utility knife, pick it up and put it in a garbage bag along with the insulation or batting.
Where to Buy Supplies
Tree Banding Supplies can be purchased at the following retail stores.
(it is a good idea to call ahead to check that they have supplies in stock before you go):
Myers Park Garden Center
931 Providence Road
Products: Large Quantity of Tanglefoot
Little Hardware Co.
1400 South Mint Street
Products: Tanglefoot and Bug Barrier
Southern Ace Hardware Co.
3528 Wilkinson Boulevard
Products: Insulation, Tarpaper, Tanglefoot and Paper, J.T. Eaton Gel Trap
Norwood Garden Center
8837 Albemarle Road
5201 Nations Ford Road
4225 Park Road Shopping Center
Products: 5lb. Tanglefoot, 15 oz. Tanglefoot, 15 oz. Tanglefoot with 50' band, Pre-coated Tanglefoot band, will cut banding by the foot
Organic Plant Healthcare
626 West Charles Street
Matthews, NC 28105
5744 N. Tryon Street
Products: All Tanglefoot products and banding kits
Jones Hardware Company
10100 Moore's Chapel Road
Female cankerworm moth: James B. Hanson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
Cankerworm eating leaf: Tim Tigner, Virginia Department of Forestry, Bugwood.org
Trees banded in Charlotte: G. Keith Douce, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org