Organic Solution for an Apple Tree

I have an apple tree, I don't know what kind, the fruit is red green with white flesh. It has had bugs, I think. They are not seen usually. I don't spray because the neighborhood kids will just take one and eat it. They are ripening way too soon and it's thought they have bugs/worms. What kind of organic bug/worm spray can I use?


Hardiness Zone: 5a

By Teresa from Peoria, IL

June 14, 20100 found this helpful

If they've got bugs, probably nothing will help this year.

BUT, read up on dormant sprays for fall, and then for next year and absolutely perfect apples, read up on bagging apple trees, originally a Japanese idea, now very popular with the Home Orchard Society, in Oregon [google words and you will find them], and what they have to say about it. I can hardly wait to try it myself, next year.

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June 14, 2010 Flag
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I love all this garden info. Would you have any natural ways to keep worms out of apples?



Organic Solution for an Apple Tree


There are hundreds of organic apple farmers out there who would love for me to have the answer to that question. There are two main sources of apple worms, coddling moths and apple maggots. Basically, if you want to win the battle without using poisons you are going to have to get down and fight dirty. It's not going to be easy that is why dozens of organic apple growers have given up and have gone back to spraying their orchards.

The one most important thing to do is to keep the orchard clear of all fallen apples and any that are remaining on the trees. Apple maggot worms generally will develop inside fruit and emerge in the spring, while coddling moths overwinter as a larva in a cocoon under rough bark on the tree trunk near the ground.

Any of these larva which happen to hatch out will, within 14 days be ready to reproduce up to 4 new generations in a year. The only way to stop this cycle, aside from chemical insecticides, is to hinder or stop the mating of the adults. You're going to have to mess with their sex lives!


There are traps available at most better garden centers. They may be a yellow sticky strip, or a bright red orb resembling an apple. Either of which will be treated with a sticky attractant designed to lure the male insect. He goes looking for a lady, gets stuck, and thereby is unable to mate. These traps are primarily designed to be used as a monitor, mainly so you are able to detect the presence of the insects, and then treat the tree with chemicals as necessary.

However, if you are willing to invest the time and money to buy extra traps, and check them regularly, it is theoretically possible to beat the bugs within a couple of years time. You will need a minimum of one trap per hundred apples, and you will also need to put the traps into any pear, crab-apple, quince, hawthorn, or walnut trees, where they can also feed.


While I try to avoid using them, and I think it is admirable to not use pesticides and chemicals at all, sometimes it becomes the only feasible alternative. I don't think that chemicals should ever used solely for prevention, but if there are insects, fungi, or disease already present, chemical treatment might be the best or only option. Just be certain to follow the directions to the letter! Good luck. (03/27/2010)

By kffrmw88

Organic Solution for an Apple Tree

Found this article. Apparently thinning reduces bug problems.
Thanks to Quinten K. Fadness and his article "Growing Worm-Free, Spray-Free Apples" in Pome News, Volume XXV, No.2, Spring, 2000 and to Ted Swensen I now have worm-free, spray-free apples. This has been my lifetime happiest gardening and orcharding experience. As an uncertified organic home gardener I now proudly store or supply family, friends, and Halfway House, with prize, bug free fruit. Prior to bagging, I was restricted to making apple sauce, apple juice, and bushels of compost.


No codling moth worms, no apple maggots, larger apples because of the thinning, less wind-caused damage and no spraying (except maybe for dormant oil and sulfur). All accomplished at the same one time up the ladder.

I average 30-50 apples per hour, which includes thinning. Six of my trees are under 14 feet and are easily reached with an 8' orchard ladder. I have one standard sized tree (Northern Spy) on which I use a 14' orchard ladder and still can't reach all of the apples. Bagging this tree is a real pain, but the wonderful large tasty apples are worth the effort.

Thinning the fruit while bagging will result in larger and healthier fruit. The earlier you thin the more significant the effect on fruit size.

Some growers think that if you thin when the fruit is a half inch in diameter or smaller it will have an additional benefit of reducing biennial fruiting characteristics. Other sources claim you need to thin during flowering to influence biennial fruiting. Thinning is a separate complex story and you need additional reading material for a complete understanding of the subject.


I have concluded that thinning and bagging when the fruit is a half inch in diameter is the way for me to go unless biennial fruiting becomes a significant problem. Then, I might consider thinning during blossoming. Since I have more fruit than I need the biennial events have been welcomed leisure easily rationalized as nature's spiritual cycles to be properly worshiped or at least respected.

I have used both #2 bags and #4 bags. #2 bags are fine for small fruit, but I have found them too small for large fruit such as Northern Spy, so rather than stock two sizes of bags I am using just the #4 size. If brown bags are used, I have been told, they must be removed before harvest so that the sun can color the fruit. I have only used white bakery bags and the apple color has been satisfactory when I removed the bags during harvest.

Bagging Procedure Suggested
(Refine with your own procedure)

  • With scissors, cut the bag from the top down for 4 inches, making two ears.
  • Slip the bag over the apple and over the supporting branch (reason for cut).
  • Bring the ears of the cut bag together over the branch and staple together so the bag is supported by the branch and not by the apple stem. I may add a couple more staples at the top of the bag so it is well closed and attached. Leaves trapped in the bag do not cause problems, except maybe a little earwig frass.
  • Removing the bags during harvest is much easier to do when the bags are wet via rain, heavy dew, or water spray.

The last year (1999) that I did not bag apples, about 95% of the apples were damaged by apple maggots or codling moths. Since then my bagged apples have been about 100% clear of apple maggots and codling moths. Leaves trapped in the bags have occasionally resulted in earwigs leaving frass, but they seldom damage the apples.

You can get bags from Merchants Paper 462555 SE 24th Ave. Portland OR, 503-235-2171. Cost for white has been: $11.25 per 500 for #4. $16.80 per thousand for #2.
Pome News, Summer 2003 Issue (03/27/2010)


Organic Solution for an Apple Tree

If it's legal, get chickens and maybe a goat or piglet or two. They will eat all the apples and their bugs from under the tree. That greatly diminishes the bug population.

I would spray with a bordeaux mixture (sulfur and lime) at appropriate time as well. It's not a pesticide in the modern sense which is causing all the problems in gender bending, neuro-toxicity, etc. It's just good old sulfur and lime. Helps with a multitude of tree and pest problems and probably does no harm to anything else. I don't know of any pests which would interfere (like certain wasps), but there may be some.

Poultry (chickens and ducks) will eat any number of pests. I had chickens in the city once and put some garbage in the compost pile (their favorite place) which had developed fly maggots, many, many, but they were gone in 10 minutes. Poultry is recommended to follow sheep and beef for pest control into pasture areas. Many cities will allow 3-6 birds, and they are really a delight and worth their feed. Many animals will eat the fallen apples as well.
Just depends on your situation.


Organic Solution for an Apple Tree

My bad! I remembered bordeaux mix as sulfur and lime, wrong. It's sulfated copper and lime. Copper can get into ground water. So scratch that advice and use the chicken scratcher approach instead. (03/27/2010)


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March 26, 2010 Flag
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What is a good natural pest control to save apples on my Apple trees? Last year all my apples had bug holes.

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June 3, 2009 Flag
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There is a beautiful macintosh apple tree in the yard that is full of apples each year. The problem though is that the apples are always wormy.

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