Organic Insecticide for Apple Trees

thesoappixie(4)February 28, 2011

We planted apple trees for the very first time last year. We were told we would need to spray them this spring. Does anyone know at what point they need to be sprayed and what are some organic options. We have honeybees so synthetic chemical insecticides are not an option.

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Dan Staley

What insect pests do you have that you think you need to spray for?


    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 7:39PM
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Dan, I'm not sure. The Garden Center I purchased the apple trees from said to spray them immediately in the spring or else they would be damaged by insects.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 10:10PM
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Dan Staley

You just don't go spraying stuff just to go spraying stuff, especially in an organic application. Nonetheless, if you want to go organic fruit trees, the MN Extension has what you need. That's their mission, to help the home gardener. Lots to learn about fruit trees, especially organic fruit trees! You'll also quickly learn the garden center may not be your friend.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 10:57PM
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Fairly common for most fruit trees is a dormant oil spray applied when the trees are dormant, and this means your bees are also not active. Other, and later in the season, sprays might be needed and even some "organic" sprays can be poisonous to honeybees. Talk with the people at your locla office of the University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension Service about what to use when that is not all that harmful to honeybees. They do have organic alternatives on the lists they use.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 6:36AM
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Dormant season sprays are typically intended for disease control. Preventative sprays for insects are uncommon - usually sprays are most effective if used only when the insect doing the damage is present, otherwise it is pretty much wasted or harming other, perhaps benefical creatures, like the honeybees.

I'm not sure about MN but the biggest insect pest on apples in my area are coddling moths/apple maggots. And these are seldom treated by spraying but rather are trapped using lures. Lures need to be placed out early, beginning with the flowers buds and remain in place during the season.

As Dan suggests, the extension service should have all you need to know and can steer you in the right diirection.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 9:20AM
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Dan Staley

IME about the only people advocating preventative insect sprays are the retailers that are selling insecticide. And often their employees don't know much.

The key for organic IPM: know what you are spraying for. Lots to learn.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 11:23AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

As far as killing honeybees goes, Insecticides are not to be sprayed at bloom time...that is the only time I know of that bees are interested in apple trees.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 6:23PM
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First, there are very few 'organic' spray-on insecticides that are registered for use with fruit trees. And none of them are preventative in character - virtually all will need to be applied when the pest is present. They either need to coat the insect or be consumed by the insect. Applying before the pest is present will have no effect unless it is a systemic type insecticide and few, if any, of these are organic in nature. Often the timing of these controls coincides with the bloom cycle and just being an 'organic' product does not guarantee it will be harmless to honeybees or other pollinators or beneficial insects. Spinosad is a case in point.

Unfortunately the OP has received some very poor advice from their garden center. Suggestions to consult with the county extension service on how best to care for their apples by organic methods are very appropriate.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 11:58AM
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Dan Staley

In addition to seconding what GG said, I see the OP appears to make soap. Some insect pests have a life stage where they are called 'crawlers' and crawl up your trunk to feast on the tree's bounty. One method of prevention is a strip of something around the trunk coated with sticky goo to intercept crawlers.

Surely a soapmaker has gooey byproducts laying around to use to intercept crawlers. This sort of thing is what organic fruit tree care is about. I use soap as an insecticide on my veggies for the aphids. It doesn't work on flea beetles unless it touches them, just like most insecticide. Sadly, too many nursery employees do not know this. Lots to learn about organic fruit tree care.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 12:45PM
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Dormant oil sprays, applied properly, can be used to suffocate some insect pests or their eggs.

Here is a link that might be useful: About Dormant oil sprays

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 12:54PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

In MN you will most likely have to deal with plum curculio. A nasty little weevil that comes out very early (around bloom time) and starts laying eggs in the fruit almost as soon as they are set. Lots of other bugs and disease, along with squirrels, deer and voles...

Take a look at this book

My apple trees are going on 5 years this spring. I plan on using Surround WP and may need to hit them with Pyganic if the curculio are as numerous as they were last year.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 11:05PM
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Thank you so much for the input everyone! I'm new to having fruit trees and had no idea where else to get this information. I will contact the University as suggested.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 6:58PM
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