Fall Canker Worms

— Written By

The fall canker worm is a native insect inhabiting the Eastern part of the United States but is a particular problem in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties. It is an inch worm caterpillar that emerges in the spring as leaves begin to appear. With the recent freezing nighttime temperatures, it is now time to band your trees to protect against the fall canker worm. At the first freeze in the late fall, canker worm female moth emerges from the soil, climbs up the host tree and lays her eggs on an available branch to overwinter and hatch in spring. Once the leaves emerge from their buds in the spring, the eager worms begin eating leaves on trees and shrubs. Repeated canker worm damage can lead to a tree’s decline in health. To protect your tree against a canker worm infestation banding is the recommended course of treatment.

Banding the tree will trap the females as they begin to climb the tree in hopes of laying their eggs. Bands should be applied to trees from mid-November through the end of January. Most bands are applied to the middle of the trunk where you can reach easily from the ground. You will need a cushioned material such as fiberglass insulation (sold as pipe insulation) or cotton quilt batting in a 3-4 inch wide strip around the tree. You can secure the batting with staples or tacks, nailing into the tree is not recommended. Apply a strip of tar paper 5-6 inches wide leaving an inch margin on each side of the cushioned material and secure with stapes as well. Apply the Tangle Foot material to the paper with a putty or spackle knife. It is recommended to wear disposable gloves and old clothes because the Tangle Foot substance is very sticky. As leaves fall you may need to apply another layer of the Tangle Foot to ensure adequate coverage. You will need to remove the band in the spring after the canker worms have come and gone. Banding supplies are available for purchase at local nurseries, hardware stores, big box stores and online.

For more information please contact Lauren Hill, N.C. Cooperative Extension of Cabarrus County Horticulture Agent, at (704) 920-3310 or by email at lhdunca3@ncsu.edu.