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Tree Banding – Everything You Need to Know

If you live in Charlotte, you can’t help but have noticed the ugly bands that appear around most of the city’s trees at this time of year. And if you don’t know what they’re there for, they can easily seem like an afront to the aesthetics of one our town’s most picturesque features. Because we all love our trees. They’re one of the things that makes Charlotte Charlotte. But that’s precisely the reason why the bands appear every year – to ensure that we keep our gorgeous leafy canopy for decades to come.

3 FAQs about Tree Banding

What are tree bands and why are they needed?

Tree bands are put in place to prevent one of the worst tree pests in Charlotte – the fall cankerworm, AKA alsophila pometaria. These rather attractive little caterpillars, that can look kind of cute when taken on their own, put Eric Carle’s very hungry beasty to shame. When they emerge from their eggs they eat, and they eat, and they eat. And their favourite food source is trees.

Working together, the fall cankerworm can defoliate a tree in very little time. And they’re not that fussy about which species they snack on. Ash, basswood, beech, black cherry, red maple, sugar maple, red oak, and white oak are all fair game. It will also feed on the leaves of apple, birch, boxelder, dogwood, elm, hickory, and many other hardwoods. Basically, if it looks like a tree and tastes like a tree, the cankerworm is interested.  And, unfortunately, the damage done isn’t just aesthetic.

What harm do cankerworms do?

While the initial impact the cankerworm has on trees is to denude them, the damage can be more long-term. Trees are fed by their leaves. That’s how they photosynthesise and how they exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen. Without leaves they can survive and often go on to produce more. But while they’re recovering from the effects of the cankerworm, the trees are weakened. This means that they become prone to other pests and diseases – just like a human with a weakened immune system. In the long-term, this could lead to the loss of the tree.

How do tree bands help prevent cankerworm damage?

Like all caterpillars, cankerworms have to crawl to get around. But in this species, the adult female moths don’t develop functional wings. This means that she has to crawl too. So, when she wants to lay her eggs, she crawls until she finds a nice leafy area where her offspring will have food when they hatch. But she cannot climb over the slippery surface of the tree bands. This leaves the cankerworm to find another nesting place and keeps our trees healthy and safe.

There are other approaches to dealing with cankerworm – including aerial pesticide spraying. While this is occasionally used in the case of widespread outbreaks, in Charlotte we generally prefer the greener option. So, while the tree bands may not look all that attractive as we move into the winter months, it’s better than losing our beautiful trees to the beasties.

If you’d like to find out more about tree banding, or need help with any other kind of home or garden pest, please contact the Noosa Pest Management team today.