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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bugs are on the Attack; Fruit Trees and Vegetables

Many questions sent to me right now are about bugs appearing on fruit trees and vegetables. Remember, never apply sprays of any sort while fruit trees are blooming. My first recommendations for pest control are natural or organic spray remedies. If my recommendations are not natural or organic, I will tell you they are conventional spray remedies.
Yes, it will cost you more money but always use a wetting agent combined with any sprays used for controlling insects, diseases and weeds. A wetting agent is not needed when applying insecticidal soap sprays. Soap sprays can be combined with other insecticides and act as a substitute for a wetting agent.
Insecticidal soap commercial size

            Big problems right now are aphids on all fruit trees as well is young vegetable transplants. Aphids inhabit the undersides of leaves where it is darker and less obvious to their predators. Aphids are now feeding, colonizing and building their populations exponentially. They are sucking plant juices from the leaves and excreting a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew.
Apricot leaves with aphid honeydew

            Soon aphids will attract ants that collect this honeydew. Ants then climb the tree in long, continuous rows that go back and forth from the aphids to their nest which is usually in the ground. Many people will try to control the ants but ignore the aphids. To control ants, control the aphids.
Aphids and ants together with aphids only there due to the presence of aphids

Soap and water sprays are very effective if sprayed directly on the aphids. Please use either a commercial insecticidal soap or an unscented liquid detergent that contains no hand care products. I prefer a liquid Castile soap for insect control but it can be more expensive than purchasing and insecticidal soap. Some people use Dr. Bonners.
Aphids and ants on the same apricot leaves

Horticultural oils are also effective and can be safely used after bloom and until temperatures reach about 85° F. Horticultural oils are refined mineral oils. Neem oil is an oil spray and can be used as a substitute for horticultural oils if you choose.
Horticultural oil commercial size

If you have nectarine, Western flower thrips are likely attacking the fruit right now. They have been attacking the flowers even before they were open. These tiny winged insects are poor flyers but able to go the short distances between fruit and attack them, ripping at the skin of the fruit causing it to “bleed” sap which they use as food. The ripping of the skin causes it to scab, become deformed and ugly. Western flower thrips are responsible for the ugly, deformed appearance of nectarine fruit.
Thrips damage to immature apricot

Spray the fruit now with an insecticide containing Spinosad listed in the ingredients. Direct your sprays primarily at the fruit because that’s what you are protecting.

One spray application of Spinosad is not be enough to protect the fruit from scarring. You must spray it multiple times as the fruit is developing if you want it unscarred. Alternate Spinosad sprays with soap and oil sprays weekly.

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