Home Is Where Your Trees Are


Successful chemical warfare in trees consists in getting there at the right time with the right material. For not to exceed $25 the home owner can acquire hardware that will deter any invasion up to fifteen feet (add a stepladder for five feet more). To protect his natural pump-fountains he needs only a mechanical pump-fountain through which his arm can supply about twenty pounds of pressure to a column of liquid nozzled into a rain or mist. Some one-man sprayers are designed with a tank of up to five gallons that sits on the ground while you pump up pressure. Another type rides on your back with shoulder straps and lets you pump as you walk. Since fifteen-foot trees, in leaf or dormant, require two or three gallons of material each for a thorough spraying, these small rigs take a lot of refilling. The next-largest size is a 20-30-gallon tank which you trundle in a barrow or on wheels of its own, still pumping up pressure by hand.

After that you get into motored sprayers, whose costs rise with the tankage and power. Where true neighborliness and enough trees warrant, owners sometimes club together and, for a total outlay of perhaps $600, jointly buy a 300-gallon spray-rig capable of hitting anything up to forty feet at about 200 pounds of pressure. Beyond this caliber, where strong spray materials may get out of hand and real hose-manship is called for, calling in professionals is recommended. If you have done some spraying for yourself, you will know what more you need, when you need it, and what to pay for it. Most tree services have high-powered rigs carrying 500-600 gallons. Charges must vary with mileages and materials but they should not run above twelve to fifteen cents per gallon applied. Companies with mist-blowers can make you the best prices, if your trees are accessible. Before defining spray targets, let us dispose of that "one bird" mentioned above. This is the sapsucker. He is the one feathered thing who is truly a tree miscreant.

About half his diet, especially during migration, consists of bark, cambium, and sap. He literally taps into them with his sharp bill and licks them out with his brushlike tongue. Except when excavating nest holes, all other members of the woodpecker family perforate trees only in search of insects, which they spear with tongues like barbed nutpicks. The sapsuck-er's depredations are unique and, when sap has fermented, sometimes comical. (Sapsuckers are often followed on their rounds by migrating Hummingbirds, but these fleet and magical jewels are mainly seeking sap-attracted insects, not drink, and should not be criticized for the company they keep.) No spray known, only wrappings, will stop sap-suckers from drilling their neatly spaced holes into young apple, birch, beech, and other thin-barked bleeders. But shoo, don't shoot them. Like their beneficent kin, the sap-suckers also extract many borers and beetles.