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Monday, April 7, 2008

"Crop Dusting" in Charlotte

Five low-flying crop duster planes from Michigan began spraying 63,000 acres of Charlotte today.

This shot shows a plane spraying the Bt.

They were after these little green critters. Eeeeuuuw!
This tree was banded in the fall and spread with sticky tanglefoot.

I awoke early to the drone of a propeller plane. It sounded as if it was right over the house. I'd momentarily forgotten about the spraying.

Charlotte, known for its beautiful tree canopy, has been battling a little creature called the cankerworm for the last 20 years. It is deadly to shade and fruit trees. These pests, the larvae of the geometrid moth, can completely defoliate a 100' oak tree in a day. The infestation was so bad last year, we literally could not leave our house without umbrellas.

Urged by the City Arborist, citizens have wrapped their trees each fall with strips of tar paper coated with tanglefoot. The sticky substance traps the wingless females when they emerge from the ground in November to climb trees where they lay eggs.

The cankerworms are incredibly nasty, creepy caterpillars which hatch in the spring. The worst thing is the incredible damage they've done to our trees, already weakened by hurricane Hugo, a fierce ice storm three years ago and our exceptional drought. The most disgusting thing is, that when startled, they drop and hang suspended in air on a long, silky thread exuded from their mouths. The threads are so thin as to be nearly invisible - at least until you walk into one. Yipes!

The City of Charlotte went into full attack mode today, hiring five planes whose pilots will spend the next four days spraying with Foray 48B - known as Bt. My DH and I spent the better part of the day trying to photograph the operation. This proved surprisingly difficult. Although the planes were loud and we could hear them coming, it was hard to tell exact direction until we actually saw them. Then they were gone in seconds, as they were just above the trees and flying 100 miles per hour. I did manage to catch one on my first try, and then another just when I was ready to give up.

I'm so hoping this spray does the trick. I'm tired of thinking I've awakened in the middle of a Stephen King novel!

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