We received a note from a woman who is having issues with her apricot tree. Specifically, her tree is growing a lot of fruit, but the fruit is replete with worms. She would like to enjoy her fruit, so she is wondering what type of worm it is and what she can do about them. She was unable to share a picture, but we imagine it looks something like this:
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All kidding aside, without a photo we cannot positively identify the species for certain. There are several species that attack apricots, including the plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar) and the green fruitworm (the common name for any number of fruit-loving species including Lithophane antennata, Lithophane unimodal, and Orthosia hibisci).
However, our reader says that she is finding the worms in the fruit, and none of those critters tends to live in the fruit long-term. Since her worms are actually inside the fruit, we think it’s likely that she’s encountered the dreaded apple maggot.
The apple maggot (Rhagoletis pomonella) is commonly found feeding on apples (hence the name), but is quite happy to chow down on all kinds of fruits including apricots, plums, and sour cherries. It does its damage by eating the fruit as it tunnels through. Once the fruit has fallen off the tree, then the larva will leave the fruit to pupate on the ground. The apple maggot has been plaguing fruit-growers for a long time, as evidenced by this drawing from an 1883 annual report from the Vermont Board of Agriculture.
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We recently wrote an article explaining that the best way to get rid of just about any pest is to remove its food, but pointed out that this can be difficult when the pests’ food is also your food. This is a perfect example. The apple maggot is a formidable foe and causes a lot of issues for farmers and hobbyists throughout the world. It doesn’t take a lot of apple maggots to destroy an entire orchard. Unfortunately, they are notoriously difficult to control, so we looked to the University of Minnesota Extension School for some advice.
The first method to control just about any fruit-eating worm (or worm-like creature) is to clean up! When the fruit falls from the tree, it should be immediate picked and disposed of. If the larva doesn’t have time to get out of the fruit, then its offspring won’t be around next spring to eat the next crop. But it’s not enough to just move the fallen fruit to another part of the yard, you need to get it completely off your property.
But, we think that the most promising technique for our reader is called “bagging.” This method consists of enclosing each fruit in a sandwich bag that is closed around the fruit. Then small hole is cut in the bottom corners of the bag so water can run out. This allows the fruit to grow, but protects it from the apple maggots for the rest of the season.
However, we are only guessing that her problem is apple maggots. Because fruit pests can be so insidious, we recommend contacting a local nursery who will be familiar with the local trees and the pests who love to eat them. She should be able to get helpful advice from them. We wish her the best of luck.