Banding Trees for Fall Cankerworm

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Fall cankerworms, commonly called inchworms, can be a nuisance in the spring when they descend from trees on silk threads. Cankerworms feed on leaves, especially oaks, and the Charlotte area has had especially high populations the last few years. While these insects and the damage they cause are most noticeable in the spring, the best time to control them is in the fall.

Fall cankerworms emerge from the ground as adults from November through January. The females crawl up on tree trunks where they mate with males. After mating, they lay a cluster of eggs in the tree canopy. The eggs overwinter and hatch in late March to mid-April. The young larvae feed on tender spring leaves until late April or May when the caterpillars descend to the ground on silk threads. The larvae burrow into the ground, spin a cocoon and pupate. The pupae remain in the soil until they emerge again as adults in the fall.

Fall cankerworms are best controlled by placing bands on trees in November after most leaves have fallen to trap the females as they climb the tree. To band trees, install a strip of cotton or insulation around the tree at least 3 feet off the ground but below the lowest limb. This layer will keep insects from crawling under the band. Add a band of roofing felt over the cotton. Apply a strip of Tanglefoot 1/8” thick and 2” wide to the felt using a putty knife. Monitor the trap until late April and apply more as needed. You can also find kits for banding at many stores.

These links give you more information about the cankerworm and its life cycle and control.