Controlling Cankerworm With Tree Banding Is a Fall Task

— Written By Dustin Adcock
en Español

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In Spring, the Cankerworm becomes a common nuisance. The prevalence of Cankerworm is a bit of a phenomenon to this area (Charlotte region), as it does not seem to be an issue elsewhere in the state.


Cankerworm feeding in Spring

Cankerworms are often called “Inch worms”, although they are actually caterpillars. They descend from trees, by the thousands, on silken threads in mid to late Spring. This is when most people notice their existence. That’s because once they descend to the ground they burrow into the soil and spin a cocoon. The Cankerworm will remain in this cocoon until Fall when it emerges as an adult moth.

In late Fall, the adult moths leave their cocoons and ascend the tree to lay eggs. These eggs develop into caterpillars, and then the feeding ensues. Due to the climbing nature of the adult moths into the tree in late Fall, “banding” the tree is the best and safest method to control Cankerworm.

Tree Banding from mid-November to the end of January keeps female moths from being able to mate and deposit their eggs on the tree tops. A sticky product such as Tanglefoot™ is applied to a band around the tree. Some local stores carry kits and products to make the process easy and straightforward with all of the supplies you need. Below, you will find a quick DIY method of banding.

Do-it-yourself Banding

  • Install a strip of fiberglass insulation around the tree a few feet above the ground, but below limbs. This allows for air circulation and prevents disease.
  • Place a band of tar paper the same size as the insulation (6-12 inches wide) around the trunk, covering the insulation. Use short staples to tack the paper and construction insulation in place. DO NOT USE NAILS. The idea is to secure it into the bark, but not puncture through the bark and into the wood.
  • Apply the Tanglefoot™, or similar product, on the tar paper in a strip (5-10 inches wide). This must remain tacky and free of dust and debris, so multiple fresh applications may be necessary. Wear disposable gloves to make the clean-up easy.
  • Remove the bands in February.
Diagram for Banding a Tree

Diagram for Banding a Tree

For more information visit a full publication from the Department of Entomolgy at NC State University.