Climbing Spikes Are Harmful To Trees

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This article is meant to inform others the use of tree climbing spikes when pruning trees can be harmful to your trees health.
by Maple Tree · All Zones · Pruning · 0 Comments · August 21, 2014 · 5,349 views

In the last few years I have noticed one of many White Birch trees I have slowly declining. All my trees are growing in the same location with all receiving the same care. Inspecting each tree carefully I noted the declining tree to have extensive damage caused by woodpeckers. Woodpeckers make feeding holes in line patterns along the trees trunk. There can be one or more lines of holes with several holes in each line. The appearance of this damage on my failing tree I assumed was an indication these woodpeckers are feeding on tree boring insects beneath the bark of my tree. Besides damage cause by boring insects the woodpeckers damage can not only stress the tree but kill it in time if the woodpeckers holes girdle the trees trunk or branches.

While inspecting my trees further for any explanation as to why this was the only tree with dying limbs I was surprised to find this tree had many healing spike holes in the trunk caused by the tree care company's climbing equipment. Although all the trees have been pruned in the last few years this was the only tree pruned by the tree service using climbing spikes. Damage to the trees bark and cambium tissue would certainly be a possible entry point for boring insects and fungal diseases. Spike wounds harboring insects and harmful fungus can also attract woodpeckers searching for insects and sap to feed on.

Spike wounds allowing the entrance of insects or disease along with the damage caused by the woodpeckers may possibly have been a factor in causing my trees declining health. It is also possible for infected climbing spikes to transfer some disease organisms from diseased trees to healthy trees, much the same way a virus or disease can be spread from one person to another. Although several reasons for my trees decline are possible I can't rule out the possibility that the spike wounds aren't part of the problem this tree has that others close by have not encountered. Because of this I felt it important to inform others of the dangers of using climbing spikes when pruning their trees.

Climbing spikes are sharp steel spikes that attach to the climber's leg and shoe by leather straps. The use of tree climbing spikes is a method of climbing trees that has proven to be harmful to long-term tree health. The climber will kick these spikes into the tree tissue and take alternate steps to ascend the tree as if he were climbing a ladder. The damage from these spikes can affect the overall vigor of the tree. Energy that would normally be used for those processes necessary for maintaining the trees health must be redirected to heal wounds caused by the spikes. Each hole created from a climbing spike produces some tissue death around it to some extent. In most cases these wounds will heal but before healing it is always possible for insects and disease to use these as entry points infecting the tree. Climbing spikes not only open up a tree to attack by fungus, bacteria, viruses, and insects but also create unsightly scars that can last for years. Many of us enjoy our trees for their beautiful bark texture and coloring and would be unhappy to see this beauty spoiled by spike damage.

Arborists, professional tree care companies, and those that climb trees for sport are aware of the dangers of spikes and recommend and/or use proper tree climbing equipment such as ropes, climbing harnesses, aerial lifting devices, or cranes to access all areas of the tree being cared for or enjoyed. This, along with their training and experience, contributes to the future health of our trees. Although climbing spikes can be harmful to trees there are exceptions when one should never hesitate to use them. Personal safety is the number one concern.

Reasons for using climbing spikes would be:

*Quickly reaching a climber in trouble.

*Climbing a tree with limbs that are too high off the ground, too far apart to access safely, or can not safely support ropes and harnesses.

*Accessing parts of a tree that is too close to power lines that can't be accessed by aerial means.

*Removing the entire tree.

When looking for tree care companies take the time to acquire a professional company that follows ANSI standards for tree pruning and other care. These are companies that will have up to date knowledge of current safety standards, insuring their safety, and assuring the long term health of your tree. Remember to always ask what equipment they plan to use when climbing your trees. Be assured the company has a current certificate of liability insurance so that you are not held responsible for any safety issues or damage that could arise while caring for your trees. Acquiring more than one quote to do the job and asking for references (don't hesitate to check these) is important. Seeing a companies work and speaking to others regarding the work they had done can tell you a lot about the company you may be thinking of using. You should never rush into a decision just because the quote was low or you are promised a discount if you sign an agreement now. Be sure you understand what work is to be done and how and with what climbing equipment is going to be used. This in most cases this will help you decide on a company that will complete your job in a safe professional manner and protect the long term health of your trees.


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