Savannah's live oaks are a trademark, a tourist attraction that helps make the Historic District special. But they're under attack from a surprising source. The prime culprit has been a tree infestation known as kermies scales. The only way to fight it is with lots and lots of tiny wasps and ladybugs.
Tree lover Bettye Berksteiner hopes they'll help save what she calls Savannah's lifeline. "Savannah is a tree city," she said. "If this condition, this blight, is left unattended, then it probably will destroy any number of trees."
The insects park and tree officials are using to combat the parasitic infestation aren't your typical wasps and ladybugs. The ladybugs are smaller than what you are used to and the wasps are a tiny, gold-colored breed. These insects were released to help save the trees.
Park and tree administrator Bill Haws says the bugs will feed on the scale eggs. It's the first time they've tried this method of live oak protection, and they're betting it will work. "We just want to make sure we protect what, in my opinion, is Savannah's greatest resource, that's the urban forest," he said.
While the bugs go at it, Berksteiner trusts the experts know what's best for the live oaks. "I believe it's going to work," she said. "I do believe they know what they're talking about."
Last night was the first of two releases of ladybugs and wasps scheduled for downtown. They hit four squares tonight, and next Wednesday, they will release more in four more squares.
The wasps are pretty cheap, but the ladybugs push the price tag up. Overall, the project costs about $2,000.