Bay Area Gardening Q&A: ‘Why do my apples have worm holes but no worms?’

Q. I’m a retired college professor. I garden organically with only moderate success.

Most of the apples on my prolific tree have worm holes. Is there an organic strategy that would help? I cut around the holes and am curious as to why I never see worms.

I also have a prolific apricot tree that bears beautiful looking apricots, but almost all of them are brown and mushy inside. Any suggestions?

Fred Leavitt, Bay Area

A. It would appear that your apple tree is the victim of a codling moth infestation. It’s almost a guarantee if you have an apple tree, you’re going to have codling moth.

Treating for the moth early is much easier than trying to tackle it after two or more seasons. The moth lays its eggs on the tree and when the larvae hatch, they begin to bore into the fruit within 24 hours. They eat and grow and eat and grow, eventually working their way through the apple and then dropping to the ground to pupate and emerge as a moth, repeating the cycle.

There’s not much you can do now, but in the spring you’ll need to act. Spinosad is the most organic treatment, and it’s effective. It will require several applications — typically three, applied every 10 days, and then later in the season if you start seeing damage.

Sanitation is also important. Pick up and dispose of any damaged fruit that has fallen from the tree. Every week or so, examine the tree for signs of the larvae — you should find an entrance hole — and then pick off the apples and dispose of them.

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You can also bag the young apples on the tree, which will prevent the codling moth from laying her eggs on them. This isn’t easy to do, but it is very effective.

If you decide to add another apple tree to your backyard orchard, consider getting one that ripens earlier in the season, which can help minimize the damage from codling moth.

You can still eat the damaged apples, but you’ll need to cut away the area where the worm has been, and often that doesn’t leave much fruit for us.

For more information on treatments, go to the UC IPM web site.

I think the problem with your apricots could be something called pit burn. Apricots generally ripen early in the season, but it’s not always easy to tell from the outside. Experts recommend sniffing them and if they smell wonderfully of apricot and don’t have any green showing, harvest them.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


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