April 3, 2018

Time to Start Thinking About Pest Control

Home Orchard
Many homeowners enjoy raising their own fruit, but anyone who has attempted to grow fruit in their backyard knows that fruit crops are attacked by a wide variety of insect and disease pests and prone to environmental damage, especially in the Midwest.  For your Home Orchard, we recommend the use of an entirely new approach to managing pests called Biointensive Integrated Pest management (Bio-IPM) to minimize the insect and disease damage to your fruit. Biointensive IPM utilizes a systems approach to pest management based on an understanding of pest ecology and tree physiology.  It begins with steps to accurately diagnose the nature and source of pest problems, and then relies on a range of preventive tactics and biological controls to keep pest populations within acceptable limits.  The preventative tactics include a combination of ecological, biological, natural, and cultural controls to keep applications of chemical and organic controls to a minimum. The goal is only to spray as a last resort for the control of pest and disease and to only use the most environmentally friendly materials.

Meet the EnemyIn the northern regions of Illinois and in most apple growing regions east of the Mississippi, there are four main pests of apple trees.  Those four main pests are plum curculio, codling moth, apple maggot, fire blight and apple scab. To learn more about these pests and how to control them, you may want to download the available pest fact sheets  and the "Managing Pests in Home Fruit Plantings" guide from Purdue University available here or on our web site. This publication provides homeowners with the information they need to produce an acceptable amount of quality fruit (apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries).


SpinosadOften there are enough beneficials (insects that prey upon other insects) to control the pest(s) in your orchard without spraying.  On other occasions you might use traps to catch pest species as they enter your orchard, or determine from the traps that there are too few of the pest to cause serious damage to your trees or fruit. But if you do have to control insect pests, there are many new all natural products on the market today that can be a 100% ecological solution.  One of those products is spinosad. Spinosad is a natural substance made by a soil bacterium that can be toxic to insects. It is a mixture of two abcterium called spinosyn A and spinosyn D. It is can be used to control a wide variety of insect pests. But  always, as a last resort, reduced- risk pesticides may need to be used if other tactics have not been adequately effective, and with care to minimize risks. 

 As the growing season approaches, now is the  time to determine what pest problems you had last season, or may have this season, and what the best approach is to handle those problems.  As the various stages of tree growth develop, so does the growth of pests.   The "Managing Pests in Home Fruit Plantings" guide will provide for you a chart of the growth cycles of the tree and a spray guide chart to let you know what pests are prevalent during those growth stages.  The "Spray Guide" will give you a list of environmentally friendly products you might need to use against those pests as a last resort.  Remember, spray chemicals is a last resort, but is also necessary if bio-controls are not working on your pests.

The benefits of implementing biointensive IPM include reduced chemical input costs, reduced environmental impacts, and more effective and sustainable pest management.  An ecology-based IPM has the potential of decreasing inputs of natural chemicals and synthetic chemicals - all of which are energy intensive and increasingly costly in terms of financial and environmental impact.  All these efforts make it possible for you to apply chemical controls only a few times each season when they are truly required. And we can recommend the use the most environmentally friendly materials available in our Nursery Center.      

I hope you find this post useful!  As always, if you have any questions contact me anytime via comments or through our !

March 12, 2018

Pruning for the Home Orchard

It won't be long before Spring will be upon us.  So.......if you have not pruned your fruit trees in your home orchard yet, now is a great time to do it.  In our area, northern Illinois, our apple trees will soon be at silver tip and it’s also time to begin planning our spray protocol for coming spring season.  Here at Royal Oak Farm Orchard our pruning began back in December and we were able to finish up several weeks early. You may not have 16,000+ trees like we do here at , so many of you may not have pruned your trees yet, waiting for some warmer weather to do so, but now is the time to prune if you have not done so already!

When to Prune

For the home grower that has 2 or more fruit trees, the better time to prune in our region is probably mid to late March when the daytime temperatures are  a bit more bearable.  The earlier in winter you begin to prune, the more likely you may open the tree up for freezing in severe temperatures if those temperatures arrive too early in the winter.  So the best time to prune is late winter or early spring, before the buds open up for the new growing season.  If you have just planted your tree(s) this past growing season, you may not even need to prune your trees at all through this first year.  You can then begin training your tree(s) this next May and June and do any minimal pruning at that time.

How to Prune
It is very important to know the difference between training your new apple trees and pruning them.  Training begins when the tree is planted and continues throughout the life of the tree.  Training is primarily used for proper positioning of the main scaffolds of the tree.  A properly trained tree can save many hours of  very difficult corrective pruning later!  For more on tree training visit our web site Growing Guide page.

Pruning, on the other hand, is used to thin the branches of your tree to allow more light into the tree canopy (the area covered by vegetative growth).  When all the leaves of a tree are exposed to more light, the tree produces higher quality fruit. Rather than post the various yearly stages of pruning trees, let me refer you to an excellent article on that will cover the first four years of pruning a young tree, whether it be apple trees or stone fruit such as peaches.  For more on training and pruning your young fruit trees, download T. R. Roper’s article  .

I hope you find these articles useful!  As always, if you have any questions contact me anytime via comments or through our !

June 23, 2017

Time to Begin Apple Maggot Monitoring

Apple Maggot Fly
Apple Maggot Fly
Fig. 1
Last season we trapped the first apple maggot fly on June 30. at about 1150 Degree Days from March 1.  We are at 982 DD as of today at 10:00 AM, so it is time to get those apple maggot traps set.  It only takes one trapped fly to  determine that they have arrived to the orchard!  The apple maggot (AM) is native to the Midwestern US and is considered a primary pest, along with plum curculio (PC), and codling moth (CM), which have been covered in previous posts. The adult apple maggot fly resembles a small housefly in size, with a black body, eyes of dark red, with the thorax and abdomen having distinctive white or cream colored bands. The AM is distinguished from other similar, and closely related flies, like cherry fruit fly and black cherry fruit fly, by the variation in dark banding on its wings (See Fig. 1).  

Apple Maggot damageA
Fig. 2
The AM overwinters in the pupal stage in soil. As soil temperatures rise in early spring, development of pupae commences.  The adult fly first emergence begins shortly thereafter (early summer, mid to late June in upper Illinois). A feeding and mating period (pre-oviposition) of approximately 7-10 days is followed by egg laying directly under the skin of the apple. Females may deposit eggs over an approximate 30 day period laying as many as 300-500 eggs.

Fig. 3
Egg-laying punctures cause dimples and distortion in the outer flesh of fruits. These punctures appear as pinpricks on the fruit surface. Larvae tunnel throughout the fruit leaving irregular trails.(Fig. 2) As eggs hatch, larvae funnel through fruit flesh leaving a winding brown trail.(Fig. 3)  Egg laying usually ceases in early to late August; however, it may continue longer if drought conditions exist throughout August.

Monitoring For Apple Maggot

Fig. 4
When monitoring AM traps, AM’s show a preference for golden delicious varieties, but no variety is immune from attack.  Sticky red spheres are effective monitoring devices for adult AM flies (Fig. 4). Females are attracted to the sphere for mating and egg laying activities and are trapped by the sticky coating. Hang traps shortly before expected adult emergence (mid to late June in upper Illinois). First emergence may be detected by checking traps daily until the first fly is spotted on the trap.

Hang the sphere in the proximity to fruit at eye level on the perimeter of the south or southeast side of the tree. Attach the ball in a sturdy stem about 1 foot above a fruit cluster of approximately 6-10, cleaning out the foliage and other fruit for at least 18 inches to sides and top of the trap so it is easily visible. The spheres attract the insects that come within a few yards of them; therefore, capture of ONE AM on any one trap at a time would indicate the need for an immediate control application. Once the pesticide is applied, AM captures are disregarded for the period during which the protective spray is effective (varies according to pesticide used).

Control for Apple Maggot

Fig 5.
Several insecticides can be used for apple maggot control including those used for codling moth control like acetmaprid and/or spinosad.  Acetamiprid is a soft, conventional control and is available as  Ortho Flower, Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer (Fig. 5).  This is a ready to use product that contains .006% acetamiprid, a synthetic organic compound of the family of chemicals that acts as neonicotinoid insecticides. Acetamiprid is a contact insecticide for sucking-type insects and can be applied as a foliar spray or a soil treatment. Acetamiprid acts on a broad spectrum of insects, including aphids, thrips, plum curculio, apple maggot and Lepidoptera, especially codling moth.  When sprayed in the evening at sunset, it will not harm bees or other beneficial insects.  Be sure to follow all label directions on the bottle for proper application.

Fig. 6
An all natural approach is available in the form of Bonide’s Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew (Fig. 6).  Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew® contains Spinosad (spin-OH-sid), a product first isolated from a naturally occurring soil dwelling bacterium that was collected on a Caribbean island from an abandoned rum distillery. Deadbug Brew® kills bagworms, borers, beetles, caterpillars, codling moth, gypsy moth, loopers, leaf miners, spider mites, tent caterpillars, thrips and more! Use on fruits, vegetables, berries, citrus, grapes, nuts and ornamentals and approved for organic gardening.

As always, be sure to follow all label directions on the bottle for proper application.

For additional information, see the following fact sheets and guides  which are available from local university extension services:


Reference in this blog to any specific commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind by Royal Oak Farm, Inc.   People using such products assume responsibility for their use in accordance with current label directions of the manufacturer.

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