They’ve emerged, and they’re on the march. I saw one yesterday. Today I saw a half-dozen. Tomorrow it will be dozens.
I’m talking about the small, gray, wingless moths (see rather blurry photo, right, taken in our back yard with my cell phone) trying to hike to the tops of Charlotte’s trees and – since they’re female – lay thousands of eggs. Next spring, on a warm and sunny day, the eggs will hatch into small green worms, who will proceed to devour all the emerging leaves on the trees. After a few years of this, the trees get terribly weakened and become more susceptible to dying from disease, drought or other ills.
If you haven’t spread the goo on your tree bands, get cracking. Those tree bands you and hundreds of other Charlotteans put up aren’t worth diddly unless they’re smeared with the goo to trap the moths. The past couple of cold mornings have encouraged the little bugs to start their yearly tree climb.
After a horrific outbreak last spring of the worms – known as fall cankerworms or Alsophila pometaria – the city of Charlotte this fall is encouraging homeowners and neighborhood groups to put the moth-catching traps around as many trees as possible. It’s not difficult, just a bit time-consuming. The key ingredient is a sticky goo called Tanglefoot. Here’s a link to the instructions. It also lists local hardware stores where you can get the supplies. Call first. Blackhawk Hardware says they’re out of Tanglefoot today, but expect more tomorrow. University City Boulevard Home Depot reports it, too, is out of Tanglefoot and doesn’t know when or if it’s getting more.
(Here are a couple more tips. First one is from Robbie Robinson at Blackhawk Hardware: Tanglefoot gets stiff in the cold. Microwave it so it spreads more easily. Second – don't ask how I know this – if a small girl happens to rub her head in the sticky goo, don’t even try to get it out of her hair with shampoo. Use an orange-scented product called Goo Gone and be plenty patient.)
Usually, if you smear the Tanglefoot too soon, falling leaves stick in it, shrinking the sticky area that will trap the egg-bearing moths. Typically Charlotte’s willow oak trees don’t lose the last of their leaves until well into December.
This year is different. An early cold snap, combined with a storm in November, means most oaks have been bare for weeks. That’s why the city’s behind in its leaf collection. And that’s why NOW is the time, if you haven’t already, to put up your goo.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Posted by Mary Newsom at 12:15 PM