Now’s the time to stop Charlotte’s cankerworms, experts say

This week’s mild weather will provide Charlotte-area property owners what might be a final chance this season to stop female cankerworms from starting a life cycle that will bring misery to many residents next spring.

“If you haven’t banded the trees, now is the time,” said Charlotte city arborist Don McSween.

McSween said residents who want to stop the females from climbing trees and laying the eggs that will hatch late next March or in April should apply bands and sticky material that stops the works in their tracks.

He said the arrival of cold weather usually serves as the impetus for the worms to begin their climb.

“The females have no way of feeding themselves, so they have a four-day lifespan,” McSween said. “That makes them pretty aggressive. They want to climb those trees.”

The cankerworm problem once was reserved for some of Charlotte’s older neighborhoods, but in recent years the worms have spread into the suburbs.

Officials in Matthews and Mint Hill have reported a growing problem the past two Aprils, and there have been reports of cankerworm problems in Cabarrus and Union counties.

The only way to stop the April problem is in November or early December by applying a band of paper-like material around the tree and then adding a coat of sticky material. That catches the females before they can lay eggs in upper parts of the trees.

One of the big problems in recent years has been a shortage of materials.

“We’ve had some of the stores run out,” McSween said. John Hervey of Monroe Hardware in Mint Hill said early last week that his store is “well-stocked.”

“Business has been picking up and we’ve been having people come in,” Hervey said.

In some cases, it might be too late. Some of the worms probably moved up the trees in the past week to 10 days. But it’s still worth the effort, experts said, because the females don’t follow a strict timetable.

“It will save you a lot of trouble next spring,” McSween said.

He said the city provides tips on banding and a list of suppliers at the cankerworm website.