If you’ve driven or walked down a street and spotted tree trunks wrapped with sheet metal, you may have been stumped. These reflective, metal cuffs can be seen everywhere from Charlotte to Los Angeles to Miami to Northern Maine.
So what gives? Hint: These tree accessories are less about flash and more about protecting the tree from unwanted pests such as squirrels, rats and raccoons.
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Why Do People Wrap Metal Around Their Trees?
Wrapping your prized shade-provider in metal has been recommended by arborists as a simple and affordable solution to protecting your home and trees.
Much like greasing the pole of a bird feeder to deter squirrels, the slick surface of the sheet metal makes it difficult for small creatures to climb the tree. This prevents pests from nesting there, or reaching higher branches that help them access your roof or attic. If you have a Japanese maple tree, you should follow these tree care tips and tricks.
Tree Baffles: Bands and Cones
These tree wrappings are sometimes called baffles. However, most baffles available online are designed for bird feeder poles or trees with small-diameter trunks. You may have also seen metal cones, which serve the same purpose and go by the same name.
This idea is similar to tree wraps, which protect trees from critters and the elements. However, these wraps are more aimed at protecting the tree’s trunk or bark from animals, sunscald and even herbicides and pesticides. They’re usually recommended for younger, vulnerable trees with thin bark, but can also be used to prevent nesting pests. Instead of metal, these wraps are primarily made of polypropylene fabric, paper and burlap.
Fruit tree owners also employ this tactic as a preventive measure. Fruit trees can attract squirrels and other hungry critters. While there may be plenty of fruit to share, the fruit may not be the only thing they’re enjoying. If they get too comfortable, they may begin chewing on the bark, which can leave the tree vulnerable to disease. In this case, the baffle does double-duty, deterring climbing altogether and protecting vulnerable bark. Here’s how to plant fruit trees in your own backyard.
But sometimes protecting trees from climbers stems from a bigger fear. Nesting animals like rats can make homes in your trees, attic and walls, bringing viral diseases that can harm humans and agriculture. Creating an inhospitable environment can reduce the number of unwanted visitors or residents and give you peace of mind.
Does Wrapping Metal Around Trees Work?
Experts and homeowners agree it’s worth a shot. While some squirrels may outsmart these diversions over time, you may deter them long enough for your fruit- or nut-bearing tree to produce a harvest.
A homeowner wrote to plant expert Neil Sperry, asking how to protect their pecan tree. Sperry said, “If a pecan tree is free-standing, that is, not touching other trees, power lines, etc., you can put a sheet metal collar in place around its trunk.”
For larger trees, you’ll need to DIY your own from sheet metal or aluminum. They’re held together with wire, nails or screws, and you can paint them to blend in. However, paint could make the surface less slippery, and therefore less effective.
Wrap the metal around the entire trunk, allowing a few inches of overlap, and place it so the top of the barrier is at least five feet off the ground. The sheet should be at least 18 inches wide to inhibit the animals’ path.
“Keep it loose so that it won’t girdle the tree over time,” Sperry says. “Much better yet, affix it so that you can put it in place in early summer and remove it […] in late fall. […] Things like reflective strips, fake owls, etc. may work for a short time, but eventually, the squirrels catch on.”
And some arborists argue that squirrels are just too hard to manage. Baffles will only work if there aren’t any other paths for the squirrels to navigate, such as low-hanging tree limbs or nearby trees or structures.
Next, read up on how to get rid of common garden pests.