Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The trees have eyes... no really!

Tree before I got my hands on the trimmer and saw... if only I could back in time...
In one of my earlier posts, I stated that I was impulsive. This time around, the unfortunate victim of my impulsiveness was our 15 foot pine tree in front of our house. I decided the thing was too tall, over grown, and in need of some serious trimming. I told Dave about my plan and knowing that it would have been futile to talk me out of it, he took the ladder outside, positioned it by the tree, and then went inside to watch the World Cup. In retrospect, I totally should have watched the World Cup. But I caught the end of it which is what the game came down to any way... back to the tree... armed with the hedge trimmers and a couple of hand saws, I went at the tree... I sheared off the branches towards the top to create a clear opening for me to saw... and off went the top 3 feet of the tree. It was actually much easier than I thought and it took me no time at all. I was impressed with my tree-cutting abilities. I called Dave to seek his opinion on whether or not I should take more off... I think he wanted to stay out of the whole thing so he didn't say much or give an opinion one way or the other. The tree looked terrible. The inside was all brown and dead and now it had an abrupt end, like some amateur had taken a hand saw to the top of the tree... oh wait, that is what happened... I decided to take a break and read up and pine tree trimming... too little, too late. Every site essentially said the same thing: cut of the top, and the tree is doomed. So that was discovery #1. Never cut off the top of the pine tree.
The victim:(
I decided to clean up the tree pieces and as I was grabbing one, I realized the pine cone was moving! I examined it closely and found what appeared to be a caterpillar in it. I put it into a container and realized that it never detached from the pine cone. It crawled around but the pine cone went with it. Strange. I wondered if it was in the process of building a cocoon and I detached it and now it would never mature. I did that once to a monarch caterpillar that was hanging from a ledge (named him Ledger) and I ended up keeping in a shoebox and helping him hang. I released him after he become a butterfly and like to think that he is somewhere in Mexico now, enjoying life. In an attempt to save this caterpillar, I needed to know what species he was so I did some research (thank God for the internet) and learned that it was no caterpillar. It was a bag-worm! What the heck is a bag-worm you might ask? Let me share with you discovery #2. Bag-worms are parasites that essentially suck the life out of trees. They attach to the tree and form a bag around themselves that resembles pine cones. They go unnoticed unless you know what to look for. I swore they were pine cones and now I am finding these disgusting little things all over my trees. I pick them off whenever I find them and fling them into the street- my hair stands instantly upon hearing the snap off of the tree. I watched them wriggle on the hot pavement- feeling a tad guilty that they were suffering but also feeling like it was an appropriate end for them after having mooched off of my tree's nutrients for who knows how long. A squirrel came along and had a nice feast and I felt a tad better knowing their end was quick. The rest got run over when Dave left for work. I still have one in the bug catcher that I am keeping for scientific research. Every time I walk by my pine trees, if I stare long enough, I can find a moving cone that gets picked off and added to the smashed lot on the street. So my once glorious emerald green arborvitae is now a brown, chopped, dying tree; even if does survive the bag-worms, will look ridiculous and be the laughing stock of the block. Really. It is that bad. I have consulted an expert arborist and am hoping he will say that even if the tree hadn't been cut off at the top, it would have died. I can then remove the tree without guilt and plant one that will be bag-worm free... until the cones start moving again...
Bag-worm. Hard to see but his head is poking out of the right side of the "cone". Gross.

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