Natural Pesticides for Apple Trees

Apples are fairly carefree fruit trees that provide your family with crunchy, juicy fruit within two or three years of planting a grafted sapling tree. But certain insects sometimes feast on your apples before you can harvest your crop. The codling moth is the most serious insect pest of both apples and pears, according to Colorado State University. Other destructive insects include mites and scale, both of which can be controlled with natural methods.

Dormant Oil Spray

Horticultural oil spray is effective in controlling many of the insect pests that attack apple trees, according to Colorado State University. Spider mites are one of most serious insect pests that bother apple trees during summer. If you have ever used a nonselective pesticide, such as Sevin, you might find an increased number of spider mites because this poison kills their natural enemies. Spray your tree with a horticultural oil during its winter dormant season to control spider mites, the Eriophyid mite, scale, aphids and other insects.

Pheromone Traps

Nontoxic pheromone traps attract and capture male codling moths, which are one of the worst of the apple pests. Pheromone traps can also capture the oriental fruit moth, spotted tentiform leaf miner, apple maggot, oblique banded leaf roller and tufted apple bud moth. Michigan State University recommends starting your use of pheromone traps for the codling moth in mid April. Place the pheromone capsule into the trap with tweezers rather than using your fingers. Place traps 30 feet apart and hang them on the south side of trees. Change pheromone traps once a month.

Sticky Traps

The apple maggot can cause extensive damage to ripening apples. However, the adult flies of this insect, which lay their eggs in apples between July and August, can be trapped when you hang sticky traps from your apple tree. Red sticky boards have been developed for this insect and by using several of them in each tree, you will kill many female flies before they have a chance to lay eggs in your fruit. The University of Rhode Island recommends hanging from one to eight red sticky boards in each tree.

Cultural Controls

Although keeping your apples thinned and picked up off the ground are not pesticides, practices such as these can help to reduce the occurrence of codling moths on apple trees. When you thin fruit to prevent individual apples from touching each other, you will remove an access point for the codling moth caterpillar. Search for apples with wounds caused by the moths when they puncture the fruit's skin and lay eggs inside; pick and dispose of all damaged apples.

Keywords: apple trees, insect pests fruit, natural insecticides control

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.