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Info on apple maggots and how to deter them

Singing Gardener: Plus, Ted shares more reader requests

Nothing wrong with these apples, but Ted asks the question: Did you experience a problem with apple fly maggots leaving tunnels and brownish mush inside any of your apples this year? Left unchecked this rampant pest can inflict severe damage. Today’s column provides food for thought and control suggestions.

Thank you good people for your phone calls, emails, letters. I get them all. A great big hello to Herman Swab from up there at Andrew, Alberta. Herman asks on the phone: “When are you going to write that book?” Yours truly Ted replies: There are a lot of books and magazines about gardening out there, each competing for display space at various retailers, libraries and bookstores. My question to Grainews readers is: “Do you agree with Herman and what sort of content should I include to entice gardeners to buy it? Meanwhile, the truth is I’ve already written a book and am seeking a publisher. It’s a true story but not about gardening at all, other than a few pages that are dedicated to a rose bush.

You’ve heard of a certain brand of coffee that’s good to the last drop. Well, may everything I include on this page be good reading to the last word. I’ve also written a few more songs this summer and proclaimed prostate health, wellness and awareness to fellow menfolk while singing my “Prostate Song” during booked personal appearances with Chris the Accordion Guy and am as always, the Singing Gardener with a tip of my welcome hat. I’m glad you’ve stopped by.

An email from Cortes Island

I looked it up on my map. Cortes Island is way out west among a cluster of islands of various sizes east of Campbell River on the east side of Vancouver Island and north of Powell River on the B.C. coastal mainland. I loved geography during grade school and haven’t lost my zeal to search for places on maps. In early September Stephanie Asbeck who lives on Cortes Island wrote the following:

Subject: apple maggot

Hi Ted, I really enjoyed reading your article on the apple maggot and I am going to try some of your formulas. I really like the pepper spray applied to the earth in the spring before they emerge from the earth. Do you think this could be applied at this time of year, in the fall, before they go back into the earth to hibernate for the winter? I really want to do something now, but don’t know if it is too late. I wonder where the fly is right now? Thanks so much for your time on this! — Stephanie

Ted says: What? I thought there’d be no apple fly maggots on Cortes Island. My answer to Stephanie — short and to the point is YES. You can apply pepper spray on soil around apple trees now and again in spring after blossom petals have fallen and apples are forming. Do it right out to the drip line. You may want to do a small test area elsewhere first then wait and check after 24 hours for any potential negative reaction or discolouration.

Apple maggot info

This is now a significant pest across the country. Since larvae are inside the apple they are somewhat protected against biological controls. Adult maggot flies are six mm long, (slightly less than one-quarter inch) shaped similar to a triangular kite, black with yellow legs and prominent zigzag yellow bands across the wings. Female adult maggot flies lay eggs that are not visible, creating minuscule dimples on surface of developing apples. Hatched maggots burrow into apple flesh and are white or cream colour. They pass the winter as pupae in the soil. Adult flies emerge the following spring when fruit is already relatively large and when outside nighttime temperatures have consistently remained above 5 C for 19 or 20 days. About 10 days to two weeks later, eggs are laid and the egg-laying cycle is repeated one year to the next. When fruit drops to the ground, maggots soon emerge to enter the soil and pupate where they spend the winter. Hence the need for regular cleanliness by retrieving all dropped summer and early-fall apples at least twice weekly and burying them really deep and away from the orchard, or feed them to livestock. Other options are sprinkle and turn piles of retrieved fallen fruit with hot powdered pepper and/or plasterer’s lime or bleach water.

Hot pepper spray recipe:

Stir 2 tablespoons hot cayenne pepper powder into 4 litres of water and then add 6 drops of Castile liquid soap available at health food stores. Some pepper residue will settle to the bottom of the jug. Pour prepared solution into a watering can with large holes stirring occasionally and sprinkle it over the designated area. Keep in mind that handling dried hot pepper powder can often bring on a bout of sneezing.

An alternative is to make your own concentrate by chopping 3 or 4 fresh hot cayenne peppers into small pieces (or whole dried hot peppers) and simmer in a litre of water on low heat (not the microwave) for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the stove element and allow the brew to steep a full 24 hours then strain and pour the concentrate into 4 litres of cold water and 6 drops of Castile soap in a watering can. A word of caution! Wear protective gloves and clothing; even eye goggles when working with fresh hot peppers to avoid burning skin from splashes. Results usually vary with homemade formulas ranging from weak, to strong or to just right. Further experimentations may or may not be necessary. In a way, each gardener/fruit grower is his or her own home scientist.

Hot peppers and microwaves don’t mix

Be aware of a person who placed hot peppers on a moistened towel to steam and soften them inside a microwave. It was set for one minute with disastrous results. Within seconds the smell of hot pepper filled the kitchen with an overpowering unintentional odour throughout. By the time said person got to the microwave, the entire kitchen had taken on a lingering hot pepper scent. With burning eyes and breath held, the individual opened all windows and doors to air out the house and then evacuated the premises until the air was tolerable again. It took over two hours to refresh and clear the house until the air was acceptable.

Baited traps

Besides pepper sprays applied to soil around apple trees during fall and spring as explained previous, you can attract and drown many adult maggot flies with baited traps hung on tree limbs in fruiting season. Save the following formula recipes and make one or both early next summer.

To 9 parts of warm water add 1 part of molasses and some packaged yeast cake granules, then allow the mix to work and bubble until it stops. Or, add 10 ml of household ammonia and a bit of powdered or liquid soap to each litre of water. Cut out a 1-inch square opening near the top of empty 1- or 2-litre plastic bottles and fill them with one of the prepared liquid baits to just below the opening with cap or lid left on. Hang four to six traps mostly on the sunny side per each apple tree about 1.5 metres high. Make fresh bait weekly or every 10 days. Some beneficial insects will also enter and drown in the trap but you’ll attract a lot of apple maggot flies as well in the process.

Stress affects digestive health

I, Ted, listen to my body and trust all my readers do likewise. Ginger tea is one of my stomach’s best friends, but not the only one. The recipe that follows is so uncomplicated and can help alleviate or ease up to 80 per cent of gut issues. Many foods can irritate and cause inflammation and that’s something a stressed digestive system definitely doesn’t need. I’m eager to share the following. Ginger tea has a warming effect on hands and feet with a toasty, comfy feeling all over, especially now with shorter days and nighttime autumn chills in the air. Try to drink a cupful at least once or twice daily for a while before deciding whether it’s of benefit to your digestive system.

Ginger digestion tea

Ingredients and directions are as follows for one or two daily servings. Larger batches can be made ahead of time and warmed later when desired.

  • 1 tablespoonful grated, minced, or thinly sliced, fresh peeled ginger
  • 2 cups distilled water
  • 1 tablespoon unpasteurized honey (more or less)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pour boiling water over prepared fresh ginger root in a teapot or extra-large mug. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Once steeped, add honey, lemon juice, stir and do your tummy a good turn.

About the author


Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.



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