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How To Protect Your Fruit Trees From Insect Pests

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Fruit trees always seem to be a magnet for insect pests during the spring when their buds are forming.  These nuisance pests can damage the buds and wreak havoc on your potential harvest later in the year.  But how do you safeguard your trees?  Read on for more information.

Before you start

Before you begin to wage war on insect pests, it's important to realise that killing every single bug that visits your garden is not necessary, and it can actually be very damaging to the fragile ecosystem that lives there.  If you randomly use pesticides, you'll certainly get rid of the pests, but you'll kill valuable pollinators and natural insect predators too. 

The best way to go about protecting your fruit trees is to use a combination of dormant sprays and natural predators, and to apply them at the right time of the year.

Dormant sprays

So where do all these insects come from?  They seem to appear as if by magic during the spring as soon as your trees begin to bud.  In fact, the majority of the pests probably spent the winter months cosily secreted in your garden waiting for the trees to bud-up and provide them with food.  Consequently, the best time to begin your campaign against them is during the colder months before they become active.  It's also much easier to see what you're treating if you wait until the last leaves have fallen in the autumn, leaving the branches and tree trunks exposed.

Dormant sprays (also called winter sprays) are not expensive and don't contain harmful chemical pesticides.  They work by coating overwintering bugs and their eggs with a film of oil which effectively kills them before they have a chance to do any damage.  You can obtain organic dormant sprays from your local garden centre who will advise you on the most suitable product to choose for your particular species of tree.

How to treat your trees

Choose a dry, calm day for this job.  If it's too windy, you'll probably finish up with more oil on yourself than on the tree.

Always read the manufacturer's directions.  Some oils are premixed and ready to use whilst others require mixing with water.  Prepare the oil accordingly and fill a sprayer.

Begin at the top of the tree using a ladder if necessary (footed by a helper in case it slips). Spray each side of every branch and the whole tree trunk with the oil.  You'll need to repeat the exercise again a couple of months later, and then for a third time two months after that.

The dormant spray controls most insect pests, caterpillars and insect eggs but won't harm useful visitors to your trees like bees and insect predators.

Natural predators

In addition to spraying your trees with organic dormant spray, you can give nature a helping hand by importing natural insect predators and releasing them in the springtime to help control populations of insect pests.  Ask for more information and advice on what species to use at your local garden centre or tree service provider who will also be able to give you details of reputable suppliers.

You can control populations of insect pests that attack your fruit trees by applying organic dormant sprays and encouraging natural insect predators to visit your garden.  For further advice on tree health and management, have a chat with a tree service contractor like Lucas Tree Services.