Rock Hill hopes to stop cankerworms in their tracks this winter by banding trees a move many say would help minimize the population of the green inchworms around the city.
On Thursday morning, the citys forester led a seminar on how to band trees for Rock Hill, Winthrop University and York Technical College facilities workers.
City officials are taking a proactive approach to prevent a cankerworm infestation next spring by hiring a contractor to band more than 630 trees in Rock Hill. The majority of those trees are along Dave Lyle Boulevard and near city-operated recreational facilities such as Glencairn Garden, Boyd Hill Recreation Center and Manchester Meadows.
Winthrop plans to band about 300 of its trees about one-third of its campus tree population.
City officials also are encouraging residents to band the trees on their own property.
The effort is in response to an infestation of cankerworms earlier this year when, officials say, billions of the little green worms took up residence in the city, dangling from trees and covering residents cars, homes and yards.
Cankerworms are harmful to the long-term health of trees especially old trees but they do not bite or sting animals or humans.
The worms fed on leaves, causing damage to the tree through defoliation.
The city will use materials to band trees that are not harmful to pets or animals but target cankerworms during an important part of the bugs life cycle.
Banding creates a barrier between the ground where cankerworms emerge in the winter and the leaves of trees, where female cankerworms lay eggs.
A sticky substance called Tanglefoot is slathered on to roofing paper, which is wrapped around a trees trunk, to stop the female cankerworm from reaching a trees leaves.
A layer of fiberglass pipe insulation is used under the roofing paper to ensure that cankerworms cannot get around the Tanglefoot.
Experts recommend using a staple gun not nails to attach the insulation and roofing material to trees.
Ready-made tree-banding products are also available in hardware stores. Commercial products cost nearly three times as much as do-it-yourself tree-banding material.
Some companies offer tree banding services.
Rock Hill forester Clark Beavans said the most effective way to control the cankerworm population is to band as many trees as possible because the pests can be carried by wind to other locations.
And, Tanglefoot should not be applied directly to trees, he said, because the substance could hurt the tree as well as the worms.
Some cankerworm-fighting sprays are available, Beavans said, but some are only effective if the bug eats it and others pose a threat to other animals such as honey bees.
Rock Hill will not use spray pesticides, he said, because of the known environmental impact, the liabilities involved and the higher cost.
Materials to band trees are available at most hardware stores in the area, Beavans said.
Some stores in Charlotte stock more options, he said, and sell the product in bulk, which makes the process more cost effective.
Tree banding will help, he hopes, cut down on the worms that annoyed many people in Rock Hill and caused serious damage to some trees.
The city and residents who want to band their own trees should have the process finished by Dec. 1, he said. Tree bands need to be removed by May 1.
Cankerworms cause more problems than just grossing people out, said Winthrop biology professor Paula Levin Mitchell, an entomologist. Her college students call her the bug lady.
Over time, she said, the worms cause a slow, steady weakening of trees.
Combined with other tree stressors such as droughts, cankerworm infestation poses a big threat to Rock Hills trees, Mitchell said.
Trees can often recover from defoliation, she said, but repeated attacks by cankerworms eventually take a toll.
Shes happy Rock Hill will not use pesticide sprays, Mitchell said, because tree banding is a more organic approach to ridding the city of cankerworms.
Still, an estimated five to 25 percent of female cankerworms will get past tree bands and make it to the trees leaves to lay their eggs.
More information about cankerworms and tree banding can be found on the citys website cityofrockhill.com.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068