Insect and Disease Information

Cankerworms conquered    Save your ash marketing image close up of a spotted lanternfly

Learn About Charlotte's Insects


a periodical cicada on a plant Cicadas are a summertime staple in the South, and their calls are sometimes downright deafening! Female cicadas lay eggs in many local native tree species such as oaks, dogwoods and maples by cutting a slit on small branches. This has minimal impact on larger, more mature trees, but it could cause significant damage to smaller, younger trees. Protect them with insect netting with 1/4" or smaller openings. Once the eggs hatch in 6 to 10 weeks, the nymphs drop to the ground, burrow underground and feed on tree roots until they emerge in approximately 13 years. This does not harm the tree.

Cicadas are generally harmless to humans and animals, but they are a feast for local wildlife such as birds, snakes, lizards, fish and opossums. Some birds may switch from feeding on caterpillars to cicadas, which may increase the caterpillar population and cause more leaf damage to trees they typically feed on. Cicadas also aerate lawns and improve water filtration into the ground. They also add nutrients to the soil as they decompose. 

Asian Long-horned Beetle

A pair of Asian long-horned beetlesAsian long-horned beetle grubs prefer maple trees but can feed on 29 species of hardwoods. The grubs create feeding tunnels inside the tree. When they change into adults, they bore their way out of the tree, creating holes large enough to fit a pencil. Once the beetle infests a tree, there is no known cure. This insect was discovered in South Carolina in June of 2020.

These insects can be transported to new locations by people moving firewood or tree parts infested by Asocial long-horned beetles. Please do NOT transport firewood to or from campsites or campgrounds!

The North Carolina State University Extension, North Carolina Department of Agriculture's Plant Industry Division, and North Carolina Forest Service have developed a "Poolside Pests" program. Learn more about the program and report sightings.

Emerald Ash Borer

An emerald ash borer on a leafThe emerald ash borer (EAB) is a metallic green beetle that bores into ash trees eating the tissues beneath the bark, eventually killing the tree. This non-native insect was first found in the United States near Detroit, Michigan in 2002. 

The EAB is now found in 30 states and in 25 counties in North Carolina, including Mecklenburg County. Hundreds of millions of trees have been killed by the EAB across the country. The insect was detected in Charlotte in May of 2017. Report possible sighting of EAB to 800.206.9333 or

Emerald Ash Borer FAQs

What types of trees does the EAB attack? All species of ash trees are susceptible.  This includes all four species native to North Carolina - white ash, green ash, Carolina ash, and pumpkin ash. 

How does the EAB harm the ash tree? The larvae of the beetle bore into the bark and feed on the tissues of the tree. This prevents the movement of nutrients and water within the tree, eventually causing it to die.

What are the signs of an EAB infestation? The adult leaves a “D”-shaped exit hole in the bark about 1/8 inch in diameter when it exits the tree. The canopy of the tree begins to thin, and dieback begins at the top of the tree. Most of the canopy will be dead within two to five years of when symptoms are first observed.

What can I do to save my ash trees? Insecticides are available for those wishing to protect high-value ornamental trees. Re-treatment must take place every one to two years. Contact a certified arborist for more information on treatment options. Also, consult this Emerald Ash Borer insecticide guide.

How many street trees in Charlotte are ash trees? It is estimated that the City manages 1,300 ash trees in the public right of way.

Where is the EAB already in North Carolina? Consult this document to find out where the EAB has been spotted in North Carolina.

Where can I get more information? Consult these links for more information about EAB.

How do I identify an ash tree? Refer to this document for a handy guide to identifying ash trees that are vulnerable to the Emerald Ash Borer.

Fall Cankerworm

Cankerworms conqueredCharlotte has a history of severe cankerworm infestations. But in the last five years, cankerworm populations have plummeted. Local arborists believe an extended frost in 2017 and 2018 affected the newly hatched caterpillars. This disrupted the insect's life cycle, resulting in fewer moths the next seasons.  

The city will NOT band trees this fall.

City staff will be monitoring willow oaks across the city to be prepared when cankerworms reappear. Residents who experienced defoliating trees last spring should continue to band their trees. There are many species of caterpillars that feed on oak trees throughout the year. Be sure to properly identify the caterpillars prior to banding.

Become a Citizen Scientist!

Where did all the cankerworms go? Help us unravel the mystery! Become a citizen scientist and collect data on cankerworms. Learn how

Orange-Striped Oakworm

An orange striped oakworm on a bare branchIn the late summer and early fall, Charlotte yards host a hungry crawler that love to feed on oak leaves. They're called the orange-striped oakworm. And their favorite meal is oak leaves. They usually defoliate the leaves or one or two branches of oak trees in August and September. But they also like maple, birch and hickory trees too.

How to spot the Orange-striped Oakworm 

These two-inch-long black caterpillars with orange stripes love to hang out on sidewalks or in the grass under your trees. You may also notice their frass pellets (feces)  on your deck, patio or sidewalk. By fall, these caterpillars are finished feeding and are crawling down tree trunks to find suitable places in the ground to pupate. By that time, the damage to the tree is already done.

Will it kill my trees?

In most cases, the orange-striped oakworm won't kill a healthy tree. "They are typically more of a nuisance than a true danger since the damage is limited to small areas of trees," said Charlotte City Arborist Laurie Reid. "Charlotte residents can take some comfort in that. But if you're still concerned about the health of your trees, contact an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist for assistance."

Additional resources

Spotted Lanternfly

close up of a spotted lanternfly The spotted lanternfly feeds on maple, polar, tree of heaven, birch, apples and many other species. It is native to China and has been discovered in several states, including Virginia and West Virginia. 

These insects can be transported to new locations by people moving firewood or unknowingly transport the eggs on vehicles and personal belongings. Please DO NOT transport firewood to or from campsites or campgrounds!

The North Carolina State University Extension, North Carolina Department of Agriculture's Plant Industry Division, and North Carolina Forest Service have developed a "Poolside Pests" program. Learn more about the program and report sightings.