Odd Thoughts: Bagging apples to beat the worms in Langley

Odd Thoughts: Bagging apples to beat the worms in Langley

Columnist Bob Groeneveld is doing battle in the backyard against a new foe.

“Sandwich bags don’t grow on trees,” my friend’s mother would have said.

So if you happen to see a bunch of sandwich bags on my apple trees, they’re not actually growing there.

We’ve always had a few wormy apples every year. Usually there’d be a bug or two that would get past the dormant spray and plant a few worms in the apples.

It meant a few spoiled apples, but most of the damage could be cut out and the bulk of the apple salvaged for juice or sauce… until the year half the apples were completely worm-eaten.

I hadn’t seen that before. Instead of a single bore-hole into the core of the apple, the entire flesh was darkened by a miniature rat’s warren. Apples that seemed perfect upon picking succumbed to the extensive mine-works during storage.

I dusted off my old books and found that the only likely culprit wasn’t likely at all – it didn’t live around here.

But they were my old agricultural science books from the 1970s.

Widening my search, I discovered that the apple maggot fly had widened its territory to include the Fraser Valley just a few years ago.

It’s a miserable little beast, and hard to control. I destroyed all the infected apples and was more diligent in my dormant spray program. I carefully used a relatively benign spring spray, timed to cause minimum damage to bees and our resident pest control squad – predatory insects and birds.

It seemed to work: more edible apples, fewer tunnels.

But the following year, it wasn’t enough. So I added organic-garden-approved sticky traps… and caught a young chickadee. The traps came down and the apples went to hell.

Last year, I tried hormone traps. The pheromones are supposed to attract the maggot flies.

It worked. I’m sure they attracted every maggot within their half-kilometre forage area.

And I did not have a single edible apple.

So this year I have about 200 sandwich bags hanging in my apple trees, each one surrounding a baby apple which I hope will grow up worm-free.

The effort has been similar so far as I’ve put in low-impact spraying and catching and hand-picking the deleterious bugs in past years, and the bags are far less expensive.

It’s supposed to work. I’ll let you know.

Sandwich bags don’t grow on trees, but I’m hoping my apples will.

Langley Advance