Sticky Trap Using a Real Apple

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A commercial sticky trap can be very effective … but so can a homemade one! Source: netreefruit.org

Many gardeners already know that a red ball covered with glue can be used as a trap for the apple maggot fly (Rhagoletis pomonella), whose maggot, the apple worm, digs tunnels in the fruit and makes it nearly useable. In fact, you’ll find such traps in just about any garden center! But did you know that you can use a real apple instead?

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Coat a red apple with sticky glue and it too will become an apple maggot trap. Source: www.vegetablegardener.com

Just coat a red apple (a Red Delicious’, for example) with a non-drying glue (you can find Tangle-Trap, for example, in many garden centers) and then hang it in your apple tree when its own fruits are still very small. Attracted by the redness of the apple, the female apple maggot fly will leave the insignificant little green apples alone and land instead on the bright red one, convinced she’s hit the gold mine: a particularly juicy apple on which to lay her eggs. Unfortunately for her, she’ll end up stuck and unable to reproduce … and your apples will be in perfect condition come fall!

Usually one apple per dwarf apple tree is enough, but four or five may be needed on large trees.20180708A www.vegetablegardener.com

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Time to Clean Up Red Ball Traps

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By the end of the season, a red ball trap can be nearly covered with apple flies! Photo: laidackgardener.blog

I don’t know about you, but my apple trees are “decorated” with red ball traps covered with Tanglefoot (a non-drying glue sold in garden centers) from the time the tree stops blooming until about the time I start to harvest my apples.

I put them up to catch apple maggots (Rhagoletis pomonella)the so-called “worm” that bores holes in apple fruits, rendering them almost unusable—before they can do any damage. But by fall they’re no longer useful: the female moth that will lay next season’s maggot eggs is now pupating in the soil below your apple trees and won’t be harmful again until early next summer, leaving you with sticky red balls covered in dead flies. Yuck!

I supposed less environmentally aware gardeners probably just toss their traps into the garbage and buy or make more the following spring. However, I feel the need to do my ecological duty and recycle them. Indeed, they can be used over and over again and last for years. But that means you have the icky task of cleaning them in the fall.

Getting to Work

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Putty knife. Photo: freestockphotos.biz

So, set up a cleaning spot by covering a table—I prefer to work outdoors on one of those sunny, warm fall days—in newspapers, cardboard or a sheet of plastic—, get out a putty knife or table knife and put on some disposable latex or plastic gloves. Put on your earphones too and tune in to your favorite radio station or podcast. It’s time to get to work!

Holding the trap by its stem, carefully scrape it with the knife, cleaning the blade regularly with a paper towel or old cloth. When the insects and most of the glue have been removed, work baby oil or mineral spirits (an organic solvent also called white spirit or petroleum spirits) into the remaining glue, then wipe off what’s left with another cloth or paper towel.

When the trap surface is clean, dry it off and store it until next year. Clean the putty knife and put it away as well.

It’s a yucky job, but doesn’t take that long … and somebody’s got to do it!20171005A ?

Have A Ball Stopping the Apple Maggot

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The main apple insect pest in most home gardens is the apple maggot (Rhagoletis pomonella), a small fly whose larva burrows into the fruit and makes it inedible. But you can control this pest if you know it weakness. You see, the female fly loves red! Given the choice of tiny green apples and a nice big red apple, she will almost certainly choose the red one. And the home gardener can turn this affection to his advantage.

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Red ball trap covered with apple maggot flies.

Just take a red ball (or paint a ball red) and hang it from the tree. Do this after the petals have fallen, but before the unripe apples are visible, usually before the end of June. Now apply a non-drying glue (“Tanglefoot”, widely available in garden centers, is the usual choice) to the outside of the ball. The trap is now set.

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Commercial trap with attractant.

If you’re not interested in making your own red ball trap, you can also purchase commercial traps. They too are shaped like red balls and come with their own non-drying glue And they’re easy to find: most garden centers and even some hardware stores offer them. Some are even equipped with an attractant that makes them more effective: a fruit essence that attracts the apple maggot flies.

Or use a real apple! Simply coat a apple from the supermarket with Tanglefoot or a similar glue and hang it from the tree.

How the Trap Works

When the apple maggot fly sees the sticky red ball, it will tend to visit it rather than the real apples nearby which are still small and green… and it remains stuck on the trap. In years where the apple maggot population is low (it varies widely from season to season), a single trap will see that up to 98% of the fruit is free of maggots. When the population is high, however, you may need to multiply the traps, placing up to five red balls in each tree… and also, you’ll have to clean the balls when as they become covered in flies. Just apply another layer of glue and hang them back in the tree.

Double Punch

Several studies show that the trap red ball will be even more effective if you accompany it with yellow sticky traps, also known to attract insect pests. Place the yellow trap on the outer edge of the tree, in full sunlight, and the red ball trap in among the foliage, but still well exposed, and the poor pest won’t know what hit it!

Ladd Trap
There is also trap that combines both methods. The Ladd trap, named for its manufacturer (www.laddresearch.com), consists of a red ball surrounded by a yellow trap and includes an attractant as well. It is, apparently extremely effective: truly the Cadillac of apple maggot traps. However, it is also sold at Cadillac prices: $29.95 US per trap on the Gardens Alive website.

Hang a few red balls from your apple trees this summer. It can save you a lot of disappointment.