Growing a fruit tree at home can be a challenge for a home gardener and can yield the added benefit of having fresh fruit on hand when you want it. To ensure your chances of a successful fruit harvest, you should understand and control diseases, fungus and insects that can threaten your fruit tree or its yield. Though insects play a vital and beneficial role in many natural ecosystems, you can take a few careful steps to make sure they do not eat the fruit of your tree.
Common Fruit Tree Insects
Numerous insect species attack fruit-bearing trees. To understand the main insect threats to the tree you are growing, you should research common pests associated with that specific species of tree. In general, three categories of insects should be your chief concern in the maintenance of your fruit tree: those that chew the tree's fruit, those that suck the tree's fruit and those that spread disease to the tree's fruit by coming into contact with it. It is important to control all three insect types in order to guarantee the health of your fruit yield.
Methoxychlor-, captan- and malathion-based insecticides are commonly sold as combination insecticides that can control all three categories of insect before they threaten your fruit tree's yield. One downside of this approach is that if your tree is only being bothered by one type of insect and not another, you risk introducing extra chemicals unnecessarily onto the tree and into the surrounding ecosystem. It is usually preferable to purchase and use each chemical separately as needed. The choice of which pesticide to use must be based both on the type of tree you are growing and on the type of insect that is attacking it. Depending on tree type, you may need to use dormant oil, phosmet, malathion, methoxychlor, imidan or no insecticide whatsoever. Each compound is designed specifically to control a specific kind of insect, so selection of the right insecticide is key to success.
Alternative Control Methods
Insects tend to develop a resistance to chemical insecticides the more they are exposed to them. This, coupled with the various health and environmental concerns surrounding the use of pesticides, means the use of chemicals to control insect populations may not be the most ideal choice. Probably the best way to ward off insect attack from your fruit trees is to purchase and plant fruit tree cultivars that are naturally resistant to insects. Many insect types can be effectively controlled with the use of sticky, colored spheres meant to resemble the fruit of the tree; insects fly onto the spheres thinking they are fruit and become trapped there. Even hanging fake or toy versions of natural insect predators such as snakes and owls from fruit tree branches can ward off curious insects.
The use of any chemicals in gardening, particularly when used on food crops, should be approached with caution. You should always conduct your own research on the chemical ingredients of each insecticide before using it to make sure you are comfortable with its inherent risks. Due to the tendency of insects to develop resistance to chemical insecticides, you should never use more than the manufacturer's suggested dosage and avoid purchasing insecticides with a higher concentration of the active chemical ingredient.