Last fall, I discovered how to get dozens of beautiful luscious maggot-free apples from my back-yard tree. Make sure a nest of wasps make their home nearby.
I planted the Cortland apple tree - fertilized by the ashes of my deceased cockapoo - 15 years ago. But fall after fall, the apples were pocked with icky dimples made by adult apple maggot flies laying their eggs. I didn’t know - and didn’t want to find out - if there were still maggot larvae inside. Only deer and other critters were brave enough to eat them.
So I decided to try organic methods to stop those darn flies from turning my apples into a feast for larvae. I tried the sticky traps, slathering clear sticky stuff over big red balls that were supposed to attract the egg-laying flies. But they weren’t fooled by the decoy balls because my apples were still fully-infested come fall. Plus they sure were a pain to clean before storing for winter.
I’ve also considered trying the bagging method, which a colleague does religiously every summer. When the fruit is about the size of a walnut, enclose each one inside a plastic sandwich bag and staple it shut. Snip the bottom corner of each bag with a scissors to let water run out. But by the time I remember to do it - the fruit is way bigger than a walnut and it’s too late.
Last summer, I was sitting on my deck, resisting the urge to stain it. Then I spied a gray wasp nest, the size of a papier mache pinata, suspended in a crabapple tree about 10 feet away. Of course, I worried that I would get stung by the wasps or they would dive-bomb me when I was gardening. But I never heard a single buzz from the colony.
By fall, I was harvesting bucket after bucket of apples pretty enough to fill a bin at Whole Foods.
What the heck happened to the tenacious apple maggots? My internet research revealed that the wasps devoured them.
By winter, the wasps had abandoned the nest, and now it’s pretty much disintegrated. So I’m hoping and praying that another wasp queen will make her home in my very welcoming crabapple tree.
How do you prevent apple maggot infestation? Have you had an unexplained great crop of worm-free apples?