The Q&A Archives: Controlling Apple Maggots

Question: Every year my apples are infested with apple maggots. Would placing paper bags over the apples as soon as they have set fruit and taping the bags securely to the supporting limbs control them? I also have problems with codling moths. However, I understand that these pests lay their eggs on the blossoms so bags would not help, but I can live with their damage. The maggots, however, ruin the crop.

Answer: The fruits of apple trees are often ruined by coddling moth larvae and apple maggot. Coddling moth larvae are usually found in the core area of the apple. The adult lays eggs inside apple blossoms. When the fruit forms, the egg hatches into a worm-like larvae.

Apple maggot is the immature form of an adult fly. The fly lays eggs just under the skin of the developing apple. When the eggs hatch, the larvae tunnel throughout the flesh of the apple, leaving rust-colored frass (bug poop). When it's time to leave the apple, the larvae digs an exit hole, spins a web, and pupates in the soil below the tree, where it emerges as an adult some months later.

Control of both these pests is difficult. There are some pheromone traps (sex attractant) available that you can hang in your trees. Many gardeners have success in trapping apple maggots by using red rubber balls (or painting styrofoam balls red) coated with a sticky substance made for this purpose, and hanging them in the tree. The flies are attracted to the red spheres and try to lay their eggs. They'll be hopelessly stuck if they land. Be sure to pick up and bury any infested or fallen fruit from the tree to prevent a population explosion of either pest.

Bagging the apples is another way to exclude the insects, and while labor-intensive, it is effective.

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