Charlotte-area residents are going to war with cankerworms again, but some local stores are having a tough time supplying enough ammunition.
Cankerworms, a perennial problem in the area, hatch and create havoc in early spring. But experts say the time to stop the insects is in November or early December, when the female worms crawl up trees and lay eggs. Those eggs hatch when warm weather arrives.
The result is a mess – defoliated trees and worm droppings.
To stop the worms from crawling up trees, homeowners need to apply a fabric band around the trunk, several feet off the ground, and then apply a sticky substance to the outside. The idea is to stop the worms dead in their tracks.
The city of Charlotte in past years has sprayed the worms by air in the spring after they hatched, but city arborist Don McSween says the real solution is applying the bands now.
“The problem is that some of the stores have run out,” he said. “They are telling me the manufacturer didn’t anticipate such a heavy demand.”
The materials are sold at big-box stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot, but also at the smaller hardware stores. The worms will attack many types of trees and bushes, but their favorite is oak trees.
“The willow oak is definitely their favorite, but they’ll go after other trees, too,” McSween said.
The problem is that the worm infestation seems to be spreading. McSween said a number of areas that haven’t experienced problems in years past had troubles last spring.
“It’s not that the worms are spreading,” McSween said. “It’s that the little insect that eats the cankerworms is not reproducing well. That’s allowing more of the worms to survive.”
This year, the worms were a big headache in parts of Matthews, where they hadn’t been active before.
“That’s the first time we’d seen a lot of the worms,” said Annette Privette Keller, a spokeswoman for the town. “We absolutely were hammered in some areas. That’s why we decided to get proactive.”
Matthews held a pair of workshops in October, and the town’s arborist, Ralph Ramsaur, has worked with a number of residents and neighborhood groups on how to band the trees.
“We had more than 50 people at the first workshop,” Privette Keller said. “I’ve gotten a lot of response from people who say they are definitely banding this year.”
“Have we had more interest this year? How about 100 times more interest,” said Dennis Teague of Renfrow Hardware in Matthews. Teague said suppliers have struggled to provide enough of the sticky substance needed for trees.
“We’re expecting another shipment any day,” Teague said.
Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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