Using climbing spikes when pruning can be harmful to trees PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff   
Thursday, 25 April 2013 09:09
Is your tree care provider using spikes to climb while pruning? Ouch!
Climbing spikes are sharpened steel spikes attached to the climber's leg by leather straps and padded supports. These spikes are traumatizing to a living tree and create unnecessary damage, according to the Tree Care Industry Association.
Each puncture produces a certain amount of tree tissue death around it, varying from tree to tree. In most cases isolated wounds will seal, but over time, groupings of spike holes can cause the entire area on the trunk to die.
The likelihood of piercing the cambium (living tissue beneath the bark) is high, even with larger trees and thick bark. If soon after the work is performed with spikes there is sap oozing, the tree is responding to damage. Repeated damage of this type is harmful to the tree.
So why would climbers use spikes? The use of tree climbing spikes (spurs, hooks, gaff, irons, etc.) is a once-practiced method of climbing trees that has proven to be harmful to long-term tree health. The climber, using one leg at a time, will kick these spikes into the tree tissue and take alternate steps to ascend the tree - similar to climbing a ladder.
There are certain exceptions, when spikes are allowed, such as:
• when the tree is being removed.
• when branches are more than throwline distance apart and there is no other means of climbing the tree (for example: when there are no branches lower than 50 feet), with no access for an aerial lift device or crane.
• if the tree is too close to power lines and cannot be accessed safely.
• to reach an injured climber.
Professional tree care companies are aware of the dangers of spikes and use proper tree equipment such as ropes and climbing harnesses to climb (or aerial lift devices and cranes if accessible). This, coupled with their training and experience, contributes to the future health of the tree.
Homeowners searching for qualified tree care companies should look for:
• Good references: Ask for them, and check on the quality of their work. Don't be rushed by a bargain and don't pay in advance.
• Proof of insurance: Ask for current certificates of liability and workers' compensation insurance, if applicable. Be aware that if the company you hire doesn't have insurance or is not a legal company, you  - the homeowner - could be held responsible as a contractor.
• Solid reputation: Verify professional affiliations the company might have, such as memberships in business and/or professional organizations such as the TCIA.
• Contract: Insist on a signed contract as to cost, dates, and exactly what is to be done.

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