Don’t Use Climbing Spikes When Pruning Trees

Is your tree care provider using spikes to climb while pruning your trees? Ouch!

Climbing spikes are sharp steel spikes on the climber’s leg held by leather straps and padded supports. A tree worker should only use them to access trees being removed. When these spikes are used on living trees, it is traumatizing to the tree and creates unnecessary damage.

Each puncture from a climbing spike produces a certain amount of tree tissue death, though this varies 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 back with no chance of recovery. This happens when a tree is repeatedly climbed for pruning while using spikes.

So why would climbers use spikes if they are harmful to the tree?

There are a few exceptional situations where using spikes is appropriate, such as:

  • when the tree is being removed.
  • when branches are more than throwline-distance apart and there are 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 by other means.
  • to reach an injured climber.

Professional tree care companies are aware of the dangers of spikes. The use of proper tree equipment such as ropes and climbing harnesses is crucial. This, coupled with their training and experience, contributes to the future health of the tree.

What homeowners searching for qualified tree care companies should look for:

  • Good References: Ask for references, 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 tree care company you hire doesn’t have insurance you 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 Tree Care Industry Association.
  • Up-to-Date Knowledge: Ask if they follow ANSI Standards. A professional arborist will be aware of the current safety, pruning, fertilizing, and cabling standards.
  • Contract: Insist on a signed contract as to cost, dates when work is to be performed, and exactly what is to be done. Insist that climbing spikes are used only if the tree is to be cut down.

Find a Professional

A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the best treatments you’re your trees and shrubs. Contact the Tree Care Industry Association, a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938. TCIA has more than 2,300 member tree care firms and affiliated companies who recognize stringent safety and performance standards and who are required to carry liability insurance. TCIA has the nation’s only Accreditation program that helps consumers find tree care companies that have been inspected and accredited based on adherence to industry standards for quality and safety; maintenance of trained, professional staff; and dedication to ethics and quality in business practices. An easy way to find a tree care service provider in your area is to use the “Locate Your Local TCIA Member Companies” program. You can use this service by doing a ZIP Code search on www.treecaretips.org.

 

*Board Certified Master Arborist, Certified Treecare Safety Professional

 

3 thoughts on “Don’t Use Climbing Spikes When Pruning Trees

  • October 5, 2020 at 9:52 pm
    Permalink

    Good information. In fact, you may want to use a professional if the tree is so large that you need to climb it in order to trim it. Just sayin’

    Reply
  • October 6, 2020 at 4:24 pm
    Permalink

    Nice to see this article. Although we’ve been promoting tree-friendly / spike-free climbing for decades, it is still a tree health issue that needs discussion. I suggest limiting the exceptions to three bullet points and eliminating bullet point 2: “when branches……”
    Skilled arborists can install climb lines with throwline well above 50′ by hand. Throwball launching tools (Slingshot style and air propelled) are common and readily available. They allow less skilled workers the ability to install lines over 100′.
    Thank you.

    Reply

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