Fruit Tree Insects & Pests

Written by donna earnest-pravel
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Fruit Tree Insects & Pests
Insects and pests can destroy an entire fruit crop. (fruit tree image by ab from

Home gardeners love to grow their own fruit. As they do, insect and pest control must be considered as well as pruning and other aspects of home orchard care. Insect and disease problems can be controlled before fruit-bearing plants are placed into the ground. Site selection, soil fertility and variety of fruit all come into play. Plants may be purchased that are disease and insect resistant. Even so, not all fruit insects and pests can be avoided.


Fruit flies and house flies are attracted to fruit. Cherry maggots emerge in early June, while apple and berry maggots show up in early July, depending on location. After the maggots emerge, the females grow into adults over a 7-to-10-day period. When the females are ready to mate and lay eggs, they are attracted to fruit tree leaves, feeding on aphid honeydew and leaf exudates. Fly mating and maggot-hatching occurs through September.

To trap flies, yellow sticky traps may be hung near fruit trees in the summer. Spraying these traps with small amounts of ammonia attracts flies even more, since the scent of ammonia smells like aphid honeydew. Place the traps 1/3 of the way into the tree foliage. Only 1 to 3 fly traps are needed for each tree or berry bush. Replace fly traps weekly through harvest.

Tarnished Plant Bug

The tarnished plant bug is a common backyard pest. They cause deep dimples in fruit. Adults overwinter, feeding on new buds in the spring. Tarnished plant bugs damage the blossoms in early spring and deforms the fruit as it develops. When apple blossoms turn pink, trap tarnished plant bugs with a white sticky trap. White sticky strips look like large petals to the bug. Put the strips on the south side of each apple tree at eye-level. One strip is enough for dwarf varieties, but large trees may need two or three. Remove the traps once the fruit is developing.

Codling Moths

Codling moths are horrible in home orchards. The larvae bury into fruit and eat near the seed cavity. Codling moths are identifiable by a sticky brown mass surrounding a hole. This is the worm's faeces, which is pushed out of the tunnel as it burrows. Some orchardists recommend spraying fruit trees with insecticide twice during the season. The first spraying is right at petal fall-off and the other spraying is in mid-July. There are two sprayings because codling moths have two generations per year. In an organic program, traps are set out from the beginning of budding to full-colour petal. Another possibility is netting. Some experiments using pheromones were completed, but their effectiveness has yet to be determined.

Redbanded Leafroller

The redbanded leafroller is a problem for fruit trees because these pests eat foliage. They are not a direct problem for fruit tree growers, simply because leafrollers eat all leaves. Traps for redbanded leafrollers frequently use pheromones. Male leafrollers are usually attracted to a trap containing its pheromones in five minutes. Set out the traps in April, and change them once a month.

Oriental Fruit Moth

Oriental fruit moths are a big problem for peaches and some apple varieties. These moths appear in May, lay eggs and the larvae feed on tender twigs and terminals. They become adults by mid-July. Their larvae feed on the fruit itself, causing mushy and wormy peaches. There is yet a third generation of adults, whose larvae also feed on the fruit. Pheromone traps capture males effectively. Replace the traps before each new generation appears. Put the first traps into the trees in April. Set out the second batch of traps around the end of June. For apples, set out a third round of traps late in the season.

Peach Tree Borer

Peach tree borers are actually clearwing moths that look like wasps. They bother almost every peach tree and many types of cherries and plum trees. The larvae eat the inner bark of the tree trunk. They are indicated by the frass they push out through the cracks in the bark, and by a sticky gum produced by the tree. Pheromone traps are being used successfully for mating disruption, but many orchardists still prefer to use trunk sprays.

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