This page undergoes constant change. These topics will change from month to month as we encounter things we find interesting.
This is the.... CURRENT.... Information Section, updated about every three weeks or as needed. Since you might not be interested in all the topics mentioned, then you have a choice to jump to the following links.
as of 4-17-98
April 27, 1998
The big subject for the month was the cankerworm and spraying done to control them. Most of the details we have written about are in the section on cankerworms, but here is something that pertains to trees in general.
Fortunately for us the sprays seem to have worked pretty well. There are still some spots where there is cankerworm activity, but you can tell another way also. There is often frass that drops from trees which becomes especially noticeable on car roofs. White cars show it best and a heavy dew or light rain really stains a car and probably hurts the paint job.
To make bad matters worse, we are seeing lots and lots of bird droppings accompany the frass. It appears that birds have discovered the cankerworm and are devouring them for breakfast., lunch, and supper. As I walk out to get the newspaper the walk is covered with white speckles of bird droppings. So, Nature is taking control and soon the cankerworms will be gone for another year.
April 8, 1998
Well its time to start talking about cankerworms as that's the big thing at the moment. The city has sprayed twice. Go back up and click on cankerworms.
March 23, 1998
Our wet weather has softened the soil so we are seeing uprooted trees. Trees appear to be leafing out a little late this year. We are looking at sweet gum flowers because this is the first time we will try Florel to control the sweet gum balls. Liquidambar styricaflua is the tree and there are just a few varieties in the world. I believe there is one in the near east that is said to be what produced the frankincense as in the three wise men.
frank·in·cense(fr²ng"k¹n-sµns") n. An aromatic gum resin obtained from African and Asian trees of the genus Boswellia and used chiefly as incense and in perfumes.
Maybe I was wrong cause I do not know what Boswellia is. Ain't these computers great. Just look up a word and learn something.
The sweetgum of the south can be tapped like a maple and has a sweetish aroma to it. Since I have never tried to make frankincense or myrrh (couldn't find this one in the dictionary) I can't speak to that. There have been some uses for the sap in years past as an additive to drugs and cremes.
Anyway the gumballs are a pain, so we have been asked if we can keep the flowers from forming. The time to treat is when the flowers just droop and that's almost here.
March 2, 1998
The ground is saturated with rain water, and this is causing some problems with trees. Recently we have had some blowovers because of the wet ground.
A few days ago we also had a wind of about 40 mph, and that damaged a number of trees. We had to deal with one southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)and three Leland cypress. The Magnolia broke from the wind, and the Lelands partially uprooted. Note that in both cases they were evergreens and would have canopies that would catch the wind. Deciduous trees have not leafed out yet so we are not likely to see wind damage in anything but the evergreens.
If El Niño stays with us for two more months as some suggest, once leaves come out,we will probably see more up-rooting of trees.
February 18, 1998
Shade Trees .... Winter
No ice storms this year (yet). One of our worst times was a cold snap a few years ago where it went down to below 0 degrees F. In 1997 we just missed an ice storm that hit a few miles north of us. We usually caution folks about cabling trees to strengthen weak forks and pruning to lighten the load but this year it has been much warmer and no ice or severe wind.
Spring might bring a lot of wind with El Niño, and when the tree is first leafing out the leaves are very heavy. Trees are vulnerable at that time and more damage usually comes from wind storms than ice storms.
April 20, 1998
Maybe we spoke too soon. It seems from the evidence on the roof of my car, that we still have some cankerworms still around. Caterpillar frass looks the same, just different sizes. Right now there are lots of droppings that show the caterpillars are getting pretty big. Also we are seeing cankerworms that now are very active in their movements.
It looks as if many survived, but the trees are not showing the major defoliation that we have had in years past. There are certain areas where the trees still look bad. After lunch today, I drove up Queens Road West and things looked pretty good; however, on Wendover Road which was an area hit hard last year some of the trees look totally naked. I assume that spray coverage of some areas will be spotty, so this does not come as a surprise.
Our conclusion so far is that the spray killed a lot of cankerworms, but some escaped. So far few trees have been damaged but the insects that managed to survive could still do lots of damage.
So we will continue to observe.
April 17, 1998
As far as we are concerned the spraying worked. We still see some trees that are defoliated, but they are coming back with very little damage. As mentioned earlier, the young cankerworms needed something to feed on to ingest the BT so there had to be some defoliation. The young insects ate very little and all that we saw that were weak and dying were about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long.
These observations were made in the areas of Myerspark and along Wendover Road where the infestation has been the greatest. There could be pockets where the spraying was not effective, but we have not observed them yet.
This is good news.
April 13, 1998
When we left town on Friday I thought that maybe the sprays did not do much good and detailed our thoughts on the subject a few days ago. Now it does appear that the spray with BT did work. We still see some trees that are defoliated, but when one considers how the BT works it begins to make sense.
The insects need to ingest the chemical so there will be some defoliation. When we saw lots of worms on their silken threads, we assumed they were healthy and ready to start chomping on the plant material on the ground. Now we do not think that is the case. There seems to be little eating of azalea blossoms and dogwood leaves. The insects seem to be small for the most part and rather lethargic. It all adds up to the fact that they are sick insects and will die shortly.
We will keep you posted as we discover more.
One last note ... it does seem that the area of infestation this year was much larger than last year, so it is very lucky that the sprays were applied. Also we had some 40 (approximately) MPH wind at the end of last week, and those tiny insects could have spread over a much greater range for the next season. Hopefully, we will see a decrease in cankerworm.
April 4, 1998
We have had two sprays for the cankerworms, and at this point we have mixed emotions as to how much good it has done. I observed the single winged plane fly over my house not far above the tree yesterday. It made a number of passes and was in the air for hours. I heard that there were two spray planes and a spotter plane that has a lot of computer stuff on it to control plane that is spraying. I have not checked but I suppose that if there were two planes, one was filling as the other was spraying and the spotter might have been a helicopter as opposed to another fixed wing aircraft.
The insects need to ingest the BT which means they need to eat some foliage, get sick and die. We are seeing lots of cankerworms especially when they parachute out of the trees on their silken webs. I think that we are seeing a lot of sickly worms and very small ones at that. I have observed some blackened worms on the car roof. I mention the small worms because that seems to be something new that we did not see last year. The young worms will be more vulnerable than the older ones, and hopefully that is what we are seeing.
It does appear that there is some control. The other side of the coin is that Randy McIver who works with us says he was in a yard today with a homeowner and the worms were everywhere. He saw defoliated branches loaded with webs. In his opinion the spray so far was not effective in the areas he observed.
It is still early so in a day or two that same property might have less worms. We shall see.
It is logical that some areas will not have good control simply that the area of infestation seems to be much larger than last year. In addition as Tuesday progressed, it became quite windy and wind will disrupt dispersion of the chemical mist.
Lastly, I have made an assumption or two that has some bearing on both control of the cankerworms by spraying and also about movement of the worms from tree to tree.
A curious thing is that we have been banding trees since the early 90's and I am seeing much the same number of cankerworms in the same tree each year. Why is this? Doesn't the banding do any good?
I think the wind plays an important factor, and it does not take much of it to move a baby cankerworm, especially when it dangles from a thin thread. If you look carefully you can see that these webs are rarely straight down, they are often at angles. The trapping helps but there are still plenty of worms blowing into adjacent trees to set the cycle up again for the next year. Remember each worm can lay between 200 or more eggs. A few years ago, I counted 300 eggs in a single egg mass.
Incidentally, eggs are laid around the traps when the female starts to climb the trees and gets stopped. The males congregate and egg masses are visible during the winter. The young cankerworm hatch, and cover the trunk in that area. If you left the bands on this year until now, they likely will be loaded with young cankerworms.
April 2, 1998
Today should be the big day. The city is supposed to spray for cankerworms. It is being handled differently than in 1992 which was the last time they sprayed. Back then there were 1600 acres that were infested and the area has been enlarged to about 6000 acres now. We had rain yesterday and today it is likely that it will be too windy to spray. Fixed winged aircraft are to be used and they will spray twice. In 1992, a helicopter was the aircraft of choice.
In 1997 the hotspots were a lot greater and the Charlotte Observer indicated that heavy winds last year is what caused the spread. My own feeling is that each year the areas have gotten a little larger and we have observed the gradual spread. The insects hang on threads and certainly can be blown around, but all of this did not happen at once.
The most mystifying thing to me is that a tree with a high infestation will be banded and catch most every insect that goes up it; and yet, the next year the infestation will be just as bad as the previous year.
See directly below for other links to cankerworm.
February 22, 1998
Last year at this time it seemed the cankerworms were gone, and for all practical purpose they are. We did find two females in the trap on two different looks about two days apart. That is a potential for 800 cankerworms or more. ( 4 worms x 200 + per worm)
There are a number of links to cankerworms that have been posted in the last few years. If this is of interest to you, check the following:
cankerworm97.htm ...the years history
cankergraph.htm ... a graph of the migration in 1997
bacillus.htm ... Bacillus thuriengiensis the bacterium of choice in spray
February 19, 1998
The cankerworms have slowed down and the traps can be removed. As mentioned before, the area will be sprayed in early April of 1998. The city plans to spray twice which should be better for control. The previous spray was in 1992 and the spray area was 1600 acres. This year they are set up to spray 5580 acres.
Bacillus thuriengiensis is the material of choice and is harmless to humans, pets and fish. I suppose if you had a caterpillar as a pet you might be in trouble.
Ponds and Watergardens
April 17, 1998
Here is a caution!!!! I have lots of fish in our office pond. The pond is 6000 gallons and there are about 50 fish. I like to feed them a lot to get them to grow and I have discovered that there was a slight ammonia build up. It was not enough to really do any harm, but I also checked the nitrite carefully.
Boy was it high. It took two days and over all about a 100 percent water change to get things back in order. I learned my lesson last year (1997) and actually lost one small fish. I also had others jumping out of the pond. Could not figure out why when no one else seemed to be bothered by jumping fish.
We have since raised the sides of the pond for two reasons. One is to keep jumping out from happening and the second was to keep heavy rainwater from overflowing the sides. We have a steep slope and although we thought we had the pond raised high enough we have had some problems in heavy storms. El Nino created a problem for us but we think we have that corrected also.
If you have to perform a major water change and your pond is fairly large here is how to make to make a dechlorinator. dechlor.htm
April 18, 1998
Well quite a few things have happened at the old pond. The females are swelling, and it will not be long before spawning occurs. Last year we learned that the process of spewing can really mess up water quality in a hurry. We have about 50 Koi in our pond of 6000 gallons and I keep adding biofilters to it.
What I like best is the Springflo Medium. I will explain why in a minute but think that I need to explain the other type of filtering we have.
Last year we had about 6 fish jump out of our pond. This was due partly to spawning and also to the fact that we let the nitrites build up a little too much. We check water frequently, but to make sure the koi do not jump this year, we have added on to the height of the pond. It is now about 12 inches higher and jumping should not be a problem anymore. The photo below is before we raised the sides. You can see the vortex on the left.
March 3, 1998
Early spring brings life back to the pond, and what is happening in our pond is probably happening in yours. Our 6000 gallon pond behind the office is 28 feet long and half of that is two feet deep and the rest is about four feet deep. A four inch bottom drain takes water back to the vortex and various filters and eventually over the waterfall.
We leave the pump on all winter and at this time of year all the filter brushes are covered with string algae and water is channelizing around the brushes, so they are not really effective. We us Springflow in our biofilter and have not cleaned it yet. Its and easy job, but just one we have not gotten around to do.
We cleaned the vortex of debris twice during the winter which is accomplished by closing one valve and opening another to waste.... an easier job than even cleaning the biofilter.
The water temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and we have been feeding since last Tuesday which is a week. The water was crystal clear, but Saturday we noticed a slight green tint to it which means the suspended algae is starting to grow. It should take about 4 weeks for the biofilter bacteria to kick in and do their job so we can expect a algae bloom. This is typical and if your pond does this, it is normal.
We could turn on the UV light and get rid of the green water, but I believe I will let it go this year just to see how long I can stand it. I have added to the biofilter, and I am trying to feed the fish a little less this spring.
PH is high, about 8 + , ammonia is 0, nitrites are 0, KH is 2 or 35 PPM and GH is 3. If you are not doing water test, you should if you have nice fish. I have not had problems with the buffering capacity of my pond, but the KH and GH are low. We have very soft water in this area, and I personally have had a difficult time getting the water to 50 to 100 PPM. I also salted my pond; it took 160 lbs. to bring it to .3%.
I made a salt tester (hydrometer) as described elsewhere in these pages. That and other details are on our links in the Fish Index. fishindx.htm. The fish index has some short articles on pond subjects and if you like watergardens and ponds, you should go there and check it out.
April 13, 1998
The Boxwood leaf miner is out and actually came out he middle of last week. There was so much rain and wind it was not possible to do much spraying for them. Years ago we used to use sevin but now there are some systemic insecticides that do a better job. The insects emerge at about the same time all over the city but we have noticed that shaded areas or those in the county where it is a few degrees cooler are later coming out.
The eggs are laid almost immediately by the little orange fly and hatch about 20 days later. The young larvae are very vulnerable to systemic insecticides at that time so we treat shortly after that. If you would like to see what we have printer in earlier seasons, click insect.htm#boxwood leaf miner
Landscape March 23, 1998
All the wetness has leached out fertilizer. There is no question in our minds that the grass is in need of nutrient. In one case we installed sod that had been amply fertilized at its farm and was fertilized after installation. The adjacent grass is poorer in color and not even tall enough to mow yet.
This means that some re-fertilization needs to be done. That concerns us because it means that zillions of pounds of lawn fertilizer has washed off the yards and into the streams and rivers. How this will effect the larger bodies and water is unknown. In North Carolina we have concerns about pollution from hog farms, and other farming industries as well as from what we create in the lawncare industry.
Plan on some reseeding also since a lot of grass was washed away by rain.
March 2, 1998
If your lawn looks a lot worse than normal, you might want to blame it on El Niño . We have noticed that our clients and others, who we do not work for, seem to have the same problems.
In my own yard which I am very familiar with, I usually just have a few bare spots to take care of in the spring. Fescue it the primary grass and is known as a clump grass. In other words it does not spread like the Bermuda type grasses do. When it germinates in the fall it is a single blade but as the plant goes through the winter it becomes broader and sinks it roots deep into the soil. I believe in some conditions fescue is supposed to send roots over a foot deep.
My yard is mostly flat, but there is a small bank from the neighbor's yard and the water from his driveway comes through our yard during a heavy rain. Usually this is not a problem because the good turf that I have slows the water down and there has never been any washing.
The winter of 1998 has been an exception. There has been constant rain and in examining the grass carefully, I can see the soil between the scattered clumps is washed away and is lower than the crowns of grass. New grass was growing there in the fall after reseeding, but it has all been washed away. There is no, absolutely none, new fall grass growing in this area.
As we all examine our clients yards we are seeing similar things. Areas that drained in previous years are so wet that the grass is very thin. Compaction is greater, and certainly drainage problems are increasing.
What can you do?
In addition, any fertilizer that you have placed on the lawn in the late fall or early spring is also washed away.
Do not give up. As soon as you can, scratch the soil in the bare spots and get some seed out. Do not plant it too thick. See our lawninst.htm page below in the Feb 18, 1998 comment.
February 18, 1998
Now is the time to get things shaped up with the lawn. One good reference we have is a link to how we do it. lawninst.htm Lawn Installation
Irrigation April 1998
Sometimes in the past we have opened irrigation systems March 1st. We have had some freezing and on one notable occasion we had some beautiful ice castles. An entire roadway of crape myrtle's were covered with ice. Fortunately they did not break, and it was quite a sight.
We delayed opening many systems until mid March and early April. It was extremely wet early in the year but it does not take long to dry out. Calls are coming in daily about irrigation needs. Its a good idea to have someone go through an irrigation system and make sure that everything is doing what it is supposed to be doing. We check for leaking wiper seals, proper rotation, coverage, obvious leaks, etc.
Landscape Lighting April 1998
April 2, 1998
Some years ago a company in California coined the term NightScaping. Its a very descriptive term but since that time there are many other players in the game, and we have many choices for decorative outdoor lighting. If this is something you are interested in, give us a call. Our landscape department and irrigation department work together on these projects concerning design and installation.
If you have a watergarden or a pond, lighting will enhance them immeasurably. We feel lighting should be subtle with no HotSpots, and we frequently see what we think is too many fixtures. We are not trying to light the World, just accent some features, provide path lighting, and maybe make the area safer.
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