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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fruit Tree Things ToDo in March

            Aphids are on fruit trees, roses, winter vegetables and other landscape plants. They love cool nights but warm day time temperatures for feeding and breeding. Their feeding causes new leaves to curl on the edges and glistening, sugary sap on leaves.
Shininess from aphid honeydew dropping on the leaves

            Opening these curls with your fingers, you will see adults and “babies”. The mother aphid survived the winter on this plant just below the soil or on neighboring weeds, then migrated to the new growth when it appeared. Mother aphids don’t need a mate. They can have babies on their own.
Plum leaf curl due to aphid feeding on the inside of the curl

            If protected inside leaf curls then they are difficult to control without chemicals applied to the soil and transported to the leaves from the roots called systemic insecticides. Personally, I would not apply these types of chemicals to plants that provide food such as vegetables or fruit trees. They are fine if used on ornamentals like roses, shrubs and trees.
Insects overwinter on weeds. Get rid of the weeds and keep a clean garden!
            Other “organic” options are to make repeat, weekly applications of soap and water sprays or use oils. Neem oil is safe to use on all vegetables or fruit trees now if they are not flowering. Or apply dormant oil used during the winter on fruit trees and ornamentals.
            Dormant oils are okay to use until the weather gets hot. Never apply soap and water, oils or any insecticide when plants have flowers. Wait until the flowers have passed and then apply them to protect honeybees.
            Some ants pick up aphids and distribute them to tender, new leaves for feeding. They are the cattle ranchers of the insect world. You will see the entrance to ant nests being created now in dry soils near to where aphids are feeding. These are 4 to 6-inch diameter mounds with a hole in the center.
Aphids and ants on apricot leaves. They work together!

            If you find an entrance to an ant nest you will probably find aphids feeding in nearby plants. Ants love the sugary “sap” that comes from the aphids. So do bees. Ants protect aphids if they are threatened and may even transport them to safety.
            Controlling in nests helps control aphids. My favorite method for controlling ants is to lightly sprinkle a poisonous bait they take back to their underground nest. Products like Amdro work within 24 hours when applied to the entrance of a nest provided the entrance is dry when it is applied. Read the label of any pesticide before applying it.

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