CONCORD, N.C. -- Concord expects a cankerworm invasion of epic proportions this spring, so they’re starting now to do something about it.
They’re launching the city’s first-ever tree banding program, banding city trees in problem areas, and teaching residents how to band their own.
Teresa and Alex Porter live in one of those problem areas, on S. Union Street near Concord’s historic downtown.
“It was like a horror movie,” said Teresa Porter of the cankerworm invasion at her house last spring. “I felt like a prisoner in my own home really -- the worms were everywhere. You couldn't go out the door!”
She showed pictures of mounds of worms on her porch as her husband tried to clean them up.
“It's like a biblical plague,” he chimed in. "Imagine that all over the sidewalks, on the portico, on the roof, crawling up and down the windows… all over the house."
This coming spring could be worse, according to the director of the city’s buildings and grounds department. David Ratchford said the infestation last spring was the worst he’s seen in his lifetime – and this spring it could be even more of the same.
"We're right at ground zero. We know we have a problem," he told a small crowd on N. Union Street as he demonstrated how to put the bug-stopping bands around trees.
Ratchford said the city’s older, urban trees – like the 100-year-old Pin Oaks on Union Street -- are more at risk because they’ve suffered from storms and disease over the years. They’re surrounded by asphalt and concrete, making it harder for them to stay healthy after a cankerworm attack.
“When the canker worms eat all the leaves in the spring, it's hard for these trees to get their leaves back,” he said. “Then the trees starve to death. So that's what we're worried about.”
A city website says cankerworms moved into Harrisburg from Charlotte in 2009 – just one year after Charlotte resorted to aerial spraying to combat the pests. The website says the worms invaded Concord and Kannapolis in 2010, and have increased the last two years.
Ratchford said cankerworms won’t attack evergreens like pines and magnolias, just trees that lose their leaves. And not everyone needs to worry yet – just people in the affected areas.
He suggests residents put up a band on one tree in their yard, and wait to see if they catch any moths.
Residents need to wait until we have two nights of below-freezing temperatures before coating the bands with Tanglefoot – the “sticky stuff” – because that’s when female moths start their climbs up the tree. Any earlier, and the bands will just attract falling leaves.
If homeowners aren’t sure if they need to start banding, they can contact the county extension agent David Goforth at 704-920-3310.
“If we can kick off a good tree banding program, we're hopeful we won't have to spray,” said Ratchford, referring to Charlotte’s efforts in 2008.
The Porters said they’re not taking any chances this year. After last year’s creepy crawly experience, they’re not only banding all of their trees – they’re starting a tree-banding business.
“I don't think you can lick it, but I think you can reduce it -- especially if a lot of people do the same thing,” said Alex Porter.
For more information, the city of Concord has published some cankerworm facts on its website.