New research suggests wrapping apples with plastic sandwich bags can keep the bugs from getting inside the fruit.
IF YOU BITE into an apple and notice half a caterpillar smiling back at you, the extra protein is compliments of a codling moth. If, on the other hand, you’re greeted by the smiles of several half-eaten worms, you’ve just snacked on apple maggots.
Codling moths lay their eggs on twigs, and occasionally, on developing fruit. After hatching, the caterpillars bore into the apples and tunnel to the core before heading out the other side, leaving a trail filled with reddish frass (a polite word for bug poop). You can eat the apples after cutting out the bad parts, but they won’t keep.
Apple maggots, on the other hand, are fruit flies. The female lays several eggs directly into each fruit. After hatching, the maggots bore throughout the apple, creating irregular, winding tunnels that turn brown, eventually rendering the fruit inedible. In the past, I covered the fruit with apple-maggot barriers (actually pantyhose footies) to prevent infestation. The barriers were 100 percent effective against apple maggots, but the codling moths were able to bore right through the material to gain entry to the apple.
Spraying the barriers with a nontoxic crop protectant, available online under the trade name Surround and derived from kaolin clay, will prevent the caterpillars from entering the apples. Unfortunately, to be effective, beginning in late May, you have to spray the barriers every two weeks, as well as after every hard rainfall. If you get lax about your timing and skip a few of the sprays, as I did, you end up with a harvest of caterpillar-infested apples.
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Fortunately, recent research from the University of Minnesota Extension found that covering apples with plastic zipper sandwich bags is almost 100 percent effective at preventing apple maggots and codling…