New Brunswick

Covering trees to protect from caterpillars bad idea

Fredericton's city forester is urging homeowners not to put anything on their tree trunks in an attempt to prevent an infestation by tent caterpillars.

Forester Don Murray says bark needs to breathe and tree could die

Fredericton's city forester is urging homeowners not to put anything on their tree trunks in an attempt to prevent an infestation by tent caterpillars.

Don Murray says instead of protecting their trees by covering them, they’re actually putting the trees at risk.

"Bark is a living organism in that tree and it has to breathe," he said.

"So if you smother it with tin foil, or Vaseline, or lard, or whatever you put on it, you run a real, high risk of killing your tree."

Murray said he's only seen one tent caterpillar so far this season and no damage to trees.

"We have yet to see a tree die from caterpillar infestation in Fredericton, but we sure lose a lot to tin foils and Vaseline and things," he said.

"We ask people to keep their tin foil for their baked potatoes."

Tent caterpillars are one of most widespread defoliators of deciduous trees in Canada. They feed on the leaves of aspen and other hardwoods, but experts say the damage is not permanent.

Other options

Homeowners can use eco-friendly oils or destroy the nests of tent caterpillars to get rid of them.

One way to avoid the problem is to shut off outdoor lights because moths are attracted to bright lights and will often lay more caterpillar eggs on trees in well-lit areas.

Any eggs can be removed manually in the fall.

Tent caterpillars were a problem in parts of Fredericton, Bathurst, French Village, Woodstock and Mactaquac in 2010.

Prior to that, the last time tent caterpillars were found in large numbers in the province was in the early 1990s. That outbreak lasted about five years and spread across 1.4 million trees.

New Brunswick is prone to outbreaks of tent caterpillars every 10 to 12 years, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

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