Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Caterpillars worm their way into neighborhood

By Amy Kronenberger

Vine Street resident Patty Mabry rakes a pile of webworms away from her home on. . .

ST. MARYS - Residents living near the city-owned Weston Woods have made a plea for help as their neighborhood has been infested by webworms.
The Vine and Beech streets residents asked city councilors during a meeting Monday night to eradicate the pests, which they say came from the woods.
Webworms are caterpillars about an inch long, named for the large web-like cocoons they spin in trees. Damage to the trees and flowers they eat are typically insignificant. However, every four to seven years they have a "population explosion" that can last for two to three years, according to Matt Ashcroft of Tawa Tree Preservation, Ottawa.
Vine Street resident Patty Mabry, who lives across the street from the woods, said the worms are falling out of her trees.
"I've been in this house for two years and lived in St. Marys for 50 years, but I've never seen anything like this," she said.
Mabry says the worms on her property came from the woods, where dead trees are covered with webworm nests.
"Once they'd eaten everything in the woods, they moved on to my yard and Beech Street," she said.
Mabry first noticed the caterpillars in her yard on Aug. 2. Three days later, the infestation had multiplied four to five times, she said.
"I walked out to the road on Friday, and they were literally like a carpet crossing the road," she said. "I've stopped using my front door because they're all over my front porch and will fall on your head."
Council member Robin Willoughby this weekend visited the 500 block of Beech Street and 400 block of Vine Street. Willoughby then called Chert Lore, head of the tree commission, but he did not come.
"I didn't know what else to do, so I called the police," Mabry said. "Officer Shawn Vondrell came, and we had 'em falling all over us while he was here; he couldn't believe it."
Vondrell called safety service director Tom Hitchcock, who sent Lore to spray the area. Mabry said the worms crawled right over his spray.
"It's helped a bit, but not enough," she said.
Mabry said her flowers and burning bushes have been killed. Neighbors lost their landscaping too, she said, including strawberry and rhubarb plants.
"I lost a lot of landscaping, everything I bought, are gone, and that's expensive," she said.
Hitchcock said residents are reporting nests all over the city. He said he's hired Ashcraft to inspect the areas today and spray the infestations.
"The exterminator is coming, but he's only authorized to spray city property," Hitchcock said. "Legally, we don't know how far we can go on private property."
Law director Kraig Noble said spraying private or residential property with chemicals always presents a liability. Residents would have to sign a consent form to have their property treated. Residents at the meeting quickly agreed.
Hitchcock requested any residents wanting their property treated should go to the municipal building and give their information.
"The whole city is infested; it's just worse at the woods," he said. "We'll have to treat everything."
Council agreed to begin treatment at Weston Woods. Ashcraft recommended a chemical called "Conserve," citing the product has low toxicity and will not kill plants. He quoted a cost of $1.50 per gallon.
Hitchcock said the chemical is carried in a truck with a 60-gallon tank. He had no idea how many gallons the city would require.
Ashcraft also recommended a spring soil injection treatment. Council decided to handle the initial treatment for now and wait until the spring to consider the injection.
In a related issue, Hitchcock said the city also has received complaints about stray cats and other issues in Weston Woods. He asked if the residents at the meeting objected to an "aggressive trimming" of the woods. The residents welcomed the idea.
In other action, council:
• Discussed ash trees in the city and the emerald ash borer. Hitchcock said the city will remove any infested ash tree and asked residents to report any infestations.
• Passed in third reading an ordinance establishing a collection fee for delinquent taxpayers who are referred to a collection agency. The fee assessed to the taxpayer will depend on the amount owed.
• Gave a first reading of a resolution authorizing the chamber of commerce to obtain a liquor permit for beer and wine sales in Memorial Park during the Walk With Nature festival. The festival will be held Oct. 16.
• Listened to issues raised by residents Bob Valentine and Kumar Sivagnanam, who were unhappy with how the city posts its public information and meeting announcements.
• Announced an electric committee meeting for 5:15 p.m. Monday at the municipal building.

Tuesday's article stated council member Robin Willoughby called Chet Lore, head of the tree commission, but he did not come to the residence with the worm problem. Willoughby said he did come to the neighborhood after she called.
The error occurred in information given to The Daily Standard.
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