Bagging Apple Fruit for Codling Moth Control in Western Montana
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Codling moth (Cydia pomonella) is a major insect pest of apple (Malus domestica). If unmanaged, then codling moth can infest nearly all apples in an orchard, where the flesh-tunneling larva leave frass-laden tracks in the fruit. Insecticide-based management requires accurate application timing (typically based on adult moth and/or degree-day monitoring) and multiple spray applications. Both the season-long commitment to codling moth monitoring and management and limited familiarity with insecticides, application tools, and proper application procedures can prevent a small-scale or backyard grower from effectively limiting fruit damage. In addition, an increasing segment of growers is interested in nonchemical alternatives. Bagging fruitlets early in the season could be a simple and effective method of codling moth management for this subset of growers. At our research orchard in Corvallis, MT, we tested a method combining fruit thinning and bagging using plastic bags the first season and nylon bags the second season. Plastic bags reduced the incidence of codling moth damage to fruit from 34% to 10%, but european earwig (Forficula auricularia) frass, which was found in more than 50% of plastic-bagged apples, made harvesting the fruit unappealing. We tested nylon fruit bags during the second year of the study. These bags did not significantly reduce the incidence of codling moth. Both the soluble solids content and titratable acidity were higher in unbagged fruit during the second year of the study, whereas color measurements indicated bagged fruit were greener on the shaded side of the fruit. Failure of the nylon bags may have been attributable to eggs laid before bagging, eggs laid or larva burrowing through bagging, or improper bag application methods. Further research could assess whole-tree bags, the addition of rubber bands or twist ties when applying nylon bags, pretreatment of fruit with horticulture oil, and/or dipping nylon bags in kaolin clay before application; however, these steps add time and increase costs, which may discourage the small-scale fruit grower. Overall, results indicate that fruit bagging holds promise for codling moth management; however, further work is needed to optimize the methodology.
Leisso, R., Jarrett, B., Mendrey, K., & Miller, Z. (2021). Bagging Apple Fruit for Codling Moth Control in Western Montana. HortTechnology, 31(4), 500-503.