The city of Charlotte is advising residents to remove the bands on willow oak trees now, rather than waiting until mid-April as had been previously recommended.
The bands are designed to prevent adult female cankerworms from climbing the trees to lay eggs. But last year the city discovered there is a new beetle in the area that feeds on cankerworms.
That insect – the fiery searcher beetle – has been known to eat hundreds of caterpillars a day, the city said in a memo released Friday.
After discovering the beetle, the city and Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory decided to remove the bands early. That would allow the beetle to climb the oaks and “feed on the emerging cankerworms.”
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The city has already started removing the bands on the roughly 6,000 trees it owns.
The city said the cankerworm eggs hatch and become small green caterpillars that eat leaves.
Repeated defoliation can weaken trees and make them more susceptible to other stresses, such as age, drought, other insects and disease, the city said.