All-natural fruit tree “bait” for insects: it works!

such tender and beautiful buds!

such tender and beautiful buds!

This post was updated just for you, Gentle, fruit-growing Reader, in April 2016:

We planted a small orchard on our place about ten years ago and were delighted when it started to produce fruit a few years ago. Our delight quickly turned to dismay, however, when–after a year or two–we discovered that much of the fruit (the apples, especially) was wormy! We found that most of the damage was the work of the common and infamous codling moth, admittedly a rather attractive moth but not one that you want to hang around your place.

Or befoul and completely ruin your hard-won orchard apples.

wormyapple

This is what we want to avoid!

natural fruit tree insect repellent

Here it is: the infamous Cydia pomonella.

The codling moth (Cydia Pomonella for those who enjoy the Latin) is a pest that is very common all over the world, though it was native to Europe originally.  The larva of the moth is the common apple worm or maggot, shown in the picture to the right. The little bugger will also attack pears, walnuts, and other tree fruits.

Spraying fruit trees with a chemical spray several times throughout the growing season is generally believed to be the only way to repel the insects that do so much damage to the fruit in our area. I actually bought some spray a few years ago, but I never could bring myself to use it. I try to stay away from chemical sprays whenever possible, and just reading the warnings on the back of the bottle scared me away from using it.

“HAZARDS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS! Causes substantial but temporary eye injury. Causes skin irritation. Harmful if inhaled or swallowed. Do not get in eyes, on skin or on clothing. . . BEE CAUTION: MAY KILL HONEYBEES OR OTHER BEES. This product is very toxic to honeybees!”

Yikes and again I say, Yikes!  That’s not all, the warnings go on for some time, but that was enough for me to put the bottle of spray aside and think hard about whether I wanted to risk it, or not. I never did pick it up again. (I love our honeybees!)

These apples that I've been buying here---the variety is SweeTango--are by far the tastiest apples I've eaten in a long time.

This is what you want! Beautiful, insect-damage-free fruit!

We spend quite a bit of time and energy trying to keep our honeybees healthy and to attract songbirds to our place: I wouldn’t want to do anything that would harm them or drive them away. And of course my beautiful chickens have the run of our place most of the time.

I have oodles of good reasons to avoid using chemical insect controls on our place. Oodles!!

However, it’s not much fun to eat wormy fruit. Happily–amazingly!!–a couple of years ago, I discovered a natural way to keep the nasty bugs away from my fruit that is very easy to do.

home4

It’s very simple; it doesn’t cost much; it won’t hurt your songbirds, your children, your dog or your honeybees; and it has been very effective in my own orchard, even last year which was unusually hot and dry and buggy.

If you have fruit trees and are put off by the chemical spray route, and if the codling moth or other insects have made your fruit nearly impossible to enjoy, you may want to try this, too.

Here are the things you’ll need, for each tree you have:

  1. Gallon-size plastic jug (milk jugs are good, vinegar jugs–which are tougher–are even better)
  2. Sturdy twine or rope
  3. a sharp knife or sturdy pair of scissors
  4. 1 cup white vinegar
  5. 1 cup sugar
  6. 3/4 cup water
  7. 2 banana peels, cut in strips (I’ve substituted other fruit peels when we didn’t have bananas in the house, and they seemed to work just as well)

And here’s how you do it:

  1. Slice off a third of the top of the gallon jug (leave the handle intact) and punch a few holes along the top edge. Thread a 2′(ish) length of twine through handle and holes.
  2. Mix together the sugar and vinegar, and put into the jug. Add the banana strips.
  3. Add the water to the solution and stir vigorously.
  4. Hang the jug in your fruit tree.
  5. Check the jug every day or two for moths and replace with new solution when necessary. If you have codling moths in your area (and you probably do) when they are most active your solution will be positively full of dead moths. It’s pretty thrilling, really. If the jugs fill up with moths too quickly, I’ll double the recipe so I don’t have to change the solution so often. I have other things going on too, after all. 🙂

Three years ago when I hung these jugs in my orchard for the first time, I must have hit the timing just right, because the next day when I went out to check on the jugs, every single one was so full of dead moths that I couldn’t even see the solution. I delightedly dumped them all into the compost pile and refilled them with new solution. I had to do this a few times during the first week or two, but my apples that year were nearly free of moth damage and worms.

It took just a little bit of time and attention, but the rewards were huge!

IMG_1390

The gallon jugs don’t show up that much, nestled into the fruit trees like this. Look at all the pretty blossoms on this apple tree! Hooray!

Having all those lovely apples was even more thrilling than finding all the dead moths in the traps!

How lucky we are that the Cydia Pomonella doesn’t know the back stroke.

If you want to try this for yourself, it’s important to get those jugs full of solution into your fruit trees before they bloom, or at least as the blooms are opening, as that’s when the codling moth seems to begin laying eggs. What happens is that the moth is attracted to the vinegar-sugar solution with the fruit peels, and then drowns in it, thus not laying its eggs on the leaves and blossoms of the fruit tree.

We installed the jugs in our orchard trees this week, and I’m checking them every day or two for moths. My trees are blossoming beautifully this spring, so I’m looking forward to lots of delicious, chemical-free fruit this summer!

So now, Gentle Reader, if you have fruit trees and have been perplexed by the damage of coddling moths or other baffling insects in the past . . . well. . . . now you know what to do!

And if you’d do me and your friends the favor of sharing this post with them, we’d all be in debt to you–because–who doesn’t want better fruit from their fruit trees? (And thank you!)

*hugs*

 

47 thoughts on “All-natural fruit tree “bait” for insects: it works!

  1. Sara

    We don’t have fruit trees…but black walnut’s FILLED with carpenter ants – quite possibly my least favourite insect on earth (home invaders) – will it work for them?

    I love you posts!!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Sara,
      I don’t know if it would work with the carpenter ants, but it wouldn’t hurt to try! If you try it, I’d like to hear if it helps or not, if you don’t mind?

  2. Farryn

    I’ll have to pass this on to some friends that have fruit trees. They are always looking for chemical free solutions. I don’t think I’d fancy finding those little worms in my food either!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Jamie,
      I’ve found that it works as long as you get it out there when the blossoming begins. Let me know how it works for you!

  3. Jillian

    Will be making this! I use a similar solution in the house with a drop of dish soap for fruit flies. I put in my first apple trees this year and they have just started to bloom.

  4. Shirl

    We have a small peach tree with lots of blossoms. We are going to try your solution. How many containers do you put in a small tree? Last year our peaches had speckles all over the and on their leaves to. We have a apple tree too.

  5. Janet Witt

    I guess I am probably too late to do it this year, but making a note of it for next spring! How long do you leave it in the tree?
    Thanks!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Janet, I leave the buckets in the tree most of the summer, because I’m lazy and don’t want to take them out. I only put the solution in them until the apples are fully formed, though, and the coddling moths have moved on.

  6. Angie Richardson

    Amy, I wish I had seen this a month ago, when peach and plum trees started blossoming in Texas. Thanks — I will save the advice in my January calendar!

  7. Leah

    Do you think it will work for cherry trees that get worms? There are already blossoms also but I could put one out there right now!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Leah, it might help! I do put these in my cherry trees every spring and my cherries are usually clean. I do find an occasional worm.

  8. Greg Navage

    Thanks for the info, Amy. I have apple, pear peach and cherry trees that should finally be giving fruit this year. I’ve already cleared and squished two tents full of tiny caterpillars. I was hesitant to spray with chemicals, and you’ve convinced me not to. We have a healthy bee population in our yard, and I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize their safety.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Greg, at this point in my life–and in the distress of the environment–I’d venture to say that the honeybees are more important than the fruit itself. You can still buy fruit at the store or the market, after all. The farmers in my area have become so adept at killing insects on their crops that we have very few bees. And our hives die nearly every winter, for one reason or another. It’s very distressing. I appreciation your efforts to keep the bees in your area safe from harm.

      1. Onalee

        The honey bees are not attracted to the sugar mixture? We have 3 hives and are very cautious about spraying the blossoms of our fruit tress with anything, including neem oil. This sounds like a great idea as long as it does not attract the honey bees too.

        1. dramamamafive Post author

          Onalee, I’d use caution . . but I’ve never noticed more than the odd bee or two in my buckets of sugar mixture. I think the thing is that when it’s in the trees, the trees are full of blossoms, and the bees are really super-busy in those blossoms. I suppose it’s a timing thing.

  9. Zerrin

    I wish I saw this solution a week or two before the apple blossoms. My very productive appke tree dropped all the petals and I can see the crowdy tiby apples now. Do you think I xan still use it on the tree effectively? I also have a pear tree which is dropping the petals.. I want to use on it too.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Zerrin,
      The vinegar-banana peel–sugar solution won’t hurt anything, but after the petals drop, it’s too late to catch the coddling moth. You would catch other insects, though, that might do harm to your fruit, so it wouldn’t hurt to put it out.

      1. Kathy

        I use this on my orchard, but I don’t cut the tops of the milk jugs at all. Insects fly in, but can’t get out as easily. Also I can leave them out in a storm and they don’t take on any water. I tie them with a loose knot to the branches with wide strips of fabric (old sheets work well). I use 4 milk gallon jugs per grown tree. I missed changing the solution for several weeks, but they were STILL catching moths and other insects. I only use 3 Tablespoons of sugar and vinegar each, and then fill the jug 1/3 full with water and swish to mix. This method catches TONS of pests! And is a whole lot cheaper than other methods!

        1. dramamamafive Post author

          Kathy, you’ve just won an Best Gentle Reader award for adding such a valuable tip to my post! I’m going to add your tip to this post. One thing that I’ve been frustrated by, in my method, is that it has to be refreshed (or replaced) so often. Your additions–leaving the tops on the milk jugs, adding more water, etc., will help with this problem. Brilliant. Thank you!!

          1. Kathy

            Thank-you Amy! I’m going to keep mine on all summer, as they recommend treating with chemicals for coddling moths till harvest. (I was going to take them down this week, but I’m still catching lots of moths!) P.S. I also don’t use any fruit peels (saves more money) and it works wonderfully !

          2. dramamamafive Post author

            Kathy, I certainly owe you for sharing your experience with me! Thank you!

  10. Deborah Weiss

    Coddling moths don’t lay in cherries. Cherry flies do, anx they do it just as the fruit is starting to blush. Sweetened vinegar may attract cherry flies, too, but if you want a 100% worm-free cherry crop, the best non-toxic solution is to cover the trees, after pollination and before the fruit begins to ripen, with cloth whose weave is small enough to keep the tiny cherry flies out, yet permeable to air, sun, and water. Check out kootenaycovers.com, a 100% solution.

  11. Shelly

    Hi Amy,
    I have several peach trees. Every year there is are large clumps of clear hard sticky goo that oozes out of them and ruins them all. I’m not sure what causes it. I’ve tried researching. I’m not sure if it’s an oriental fruit moth. Any ideas or experience? I really need a solution!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Shelly, Do an internet search for “stone fruit tree borer.” Nearly all stone fruit trees are susceptible to this pest, and it will kill them all eventually. There is a preventative. I haven’t done a post on it yet, but I plan to. Good luck!

  12. Sue

    Hi Amy. My sister in law tipped me onto trying this-she has been doing it for a couple of years. She uses just vinegar, sugar and banana peels-no water. We have sprayed our trees twice this year already with a chemical spray. We have used the same thing in the past with varying results-anywhere from 20-50% of the fruit being infested. Spraying is such a pain because you have to wait for the weather to be just right, too. I would love to start doing this but am wondering if hanging jugs out now will do any good or should we wait till next spring to try this?

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Hi Sue! It won’t HURT, but in my experience it’s better to hang the jugs out in the spring when the trees are blooming. That’s when many of the pests become a problem.

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