How to Prevent Worms getting into your Apples and Pears

Organic prevention is simple with one or a few small apple or pear trees, but, it requires preparation and a bit of work. The most common and successful prevention method is to place a barrier around the fruit so Codling Moths and Apple Maggots cannot get to the fruit.

These barriers are a layer of mesh that the insects cannot get through. They are placed over fruit, whole branches or whole trees. They need to remain in place from late May or Early June till harvest in the fall. This may not be the look you were hoping for when you planted your apple tree(s), but organic bug free fruit may be worth it. If you come up with a way to make these barriers look desirable for front yards, please send me a picture.

Enclosing Individual Fruit

Apple Soxs (also called Orchard Sox, Maggot Barriers or Nylon Footies).

  • The first picture in the gallery above is of apples thinned down to one fruit per spur when the fruit are about 1 cm in diameter. A sox is pulled over each apple and secured in place around the apple stem with string, twist ties or small rubber bands. The Seattle Tree Fruit Society has a great set of slides on how to apply the sox on this page.
  • Apple Soxs are the logical choice for organic prevention if you have a small number of small trees. The application of soxs to  a large number of apples or pears can be tedious. 
  • Apple sox started off as repurposed nylon footies. Today they are manufactured for this use and available from many Internet sources. If you know of a garden center or other retailer selling them here in BC please let me know so I can send interested gardeners to them.

Enclosing Whole Branches 

Wrapped Horizontal Espalier Branch

Individual branches can be wrapped with sheets or bags of fine mesh material. The above branch of a horizontal espalier tree was wrapped with floating row cover material and pinned closed with clothespins.  Floating row cover material, usually spun-bond polyester rips easily. If you use it make sure there are no holes. Floating row cover is available at most BC Garden Centers and Nurseries. Higher quality mesh designed for insect prevention is available from Kootenay Covers based in the BC Interior (Kaslo) and other internet sources.  Some people have even used wedding veil material purchased at second hand stores. 

For the small espalier trees as in the above picture warping branches is easy but does depend on tree design. For larger trees, branches may need to be pruned to make them easier to wrap. For really large trees I suggest wrapping a few lower branches to produce some bug free low hanging fruit and leave the rest of the tree to the bugs.

Enclosing Whole Trees

Whole tree covers can be purchased ready made from Kootenay Covers. You can also make your own covers from their material or wide floating row cover material purchased from garden centers or farm suppliers. Your trees may need to be pruned to make installing the bag easier.

Home Orchard and Garden Organic Insecticides

There are some organic home garden (Domestic Label) insecticides registered for Codling Moth control in British Columbia. These should be considered a last resort solution as they are either marginally effective (only suppress Codling Moth) or they cause significant collateral damage to insect and mite predators. 

Commercial Orchardists 

Commercial orchardists have access to many more products and techniques than home garden and home orchardists for Codling Moth Prevention. This includes organic insecticides (spinosad), Surround (derived from kaolin clay – provides a layer of clay as a barrier), mating disruption (only for blocks of 2 hectares or more), Sterile Insect Release Program (interior only) and Codling Moth virus (Virosoft CP4, Cyd-X Granulovirus). See Codling Moth in the online BC Tree Fruit Production Guide for more information. Home gardeners and home orchardists will also find lots of valuable information on this site.

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