Tree Spikes – Good or Bad

Q: I work for a tree maintenance company. Recently, we worked in a landscape a few weeks after the homeowner had had a television receiver installed up in one of his pine trees. The installer had evidently used spikes to climb the tree because big fresh holes were very noticeable where he had gone up and come down. The owner of my company makes us climb into trees with ropes and rarely allows us to use spikes because he says they hurt the tree. What do you think about climbing with spikes?

A: I don’t like them at all. I’m reminded of the words of Dr. Kim Coder, nationally known tree expert at the University of Georgia, who says “A tree never forgets. It may seal over and compartmentalize a wound – but the damage from any injury that occurs is always present under the bark of a tree. Even though the spike holes seem small to the installer, they are a perfect entry point for Southern pine beetles and other insects that attack big trees. The smell of the pine sap may even attract pine beetles from far away.”

A spokesman for a major telecommunications company that offers tree-top television receivers says that their installation crews are required to adhere to national standards for avoiding damage when they climb trees.

In essence, the standards do allow climbers to use spikes – but only if there is no other safe way to climb the tree. The company has evidently hired lots of crews to meet customer demand for receivers. It is my opinion that some crews, perhaps due to inexperience or time demands, are quick to declare that spikes are the only safe method they can use.

Experienced tree workers say that there are very few trees that can not be climbed using ropes. Before risking the future health of your trees, check with any crew that comes to your property to ascertain the method of climbing they intend to use.

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