Pear & Apple Pest ControlMay 29, 2015
Rock the socks off apple maggot and codling moth with this simple apple pest control barrier technique. It’s healthier than applying a ‘cide. You may even be able to upcycle old clothes to do the job. And, you aren’t likely to bite into another nasty, mealy, wormy apple from your trees again!
In the pacific northwest, apple maggot and codling moth are the nasty flying pests that inject their eggs through the skin of young fruit. When those eggs hatch, worms crawl through our fruit. Sometimes they leave before we take a bite. Sometimes they’re still squirming around in there.
The easiest way to avoid wormy, maggot-y apples and pears is to simply slip a nylon baggy barrier over young fruits in spring. The barrier makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the adult pest to inject its progeny into the growing fruit. And, as the fruit grows, the baggy will expand around it.
Some folks prefer to hang plastic bags over their fruit to the same end. While neither the nylons nor the plastic bags are pretty to look at, to my eyes plastic bags look trashier and may magnify sunlight, burning surrounding leaves and branches. Want to use a paper bag? Go ahead, but it’ll probably melt after a decent rain.
Timing is everything!
It is critical to get your fruit barriers onto your plants early in the growing season — like by the end of May at the latest. If you’re late to the game, momma may get her eggs in place, and then you’re too late.
This is the same time of year when knocking a few fruits off your tree may help your trees produce a more delicious crop. In fact, most fruit trees will release a few young, green fruit on their own. But if you knock off the least desirable fruit, you’ll likely find that the remaining fruit gets bigger and more delicious than it would if you left a bunch of little fruits on the tree, sapping resources and offering little in return.
So, knock off the worst fruit in a group. Sock the rest.
Where to get the socks?
Maybe you can make them from an old pair of stockings in your closet. The first year our Asian pear tree produced a fruit (yes, one single fruit), I decided using a pair of stretched out old stockings was worth a try.
I snipped out a large portion of the foot, slipped that over the single pear, and tied it loosely in place with a twist-tie. The black color didn’t matter, and in the end, I harvested that single fruit, which had zero pest damage!
This year, our tree produced quite a few fruits, and I’m fresh out of stockings to cut up, so I purchased a bag of about 100+ nylon socks from a local retail nursery. The nursery was selling them on behalf of the Seattle Fruit Tree Society. You can order from them directly here. If you buy through the society, proceeds go to support fruit education and research.
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But my tree is huge!
If you have an enormous pear or apple tree, odds are the fruit near the tops of the trees goes to the birds, so don’t worry about putting a sock on those. Slip your barriers over the low-hanging fruit that you’re most likely to harvest. If you really do intend to harvest every bit of fruit from your tree, barrier applications are going to be laborious – just like harvesting fruit from the top of your tree will be. Get a ladder, and get to it before your little fruits get much bigger than a cherry tomato.
When harvest time comes, many of your nylon socks will still be in decent shape. Slip them off the fruits as you pick and save the best to re-use in future years.
What about those scabby things on my pears?
Pear scab is an entirely different problem, caused by a fungus rather than a flying pest. Unfortunately, your fruit maggot barriers won’t stop scab.