[nafex] Plum Curculio

Don Yellman dyellman at earthlink.net
Mon May 7 21:05:05 EDT 2001

For Chris Duffy:

    If it were up to me, the plum curculio would be renamed the fruit
curculio.  It is far and away the worst early pest I have here in
Northern Virginia, and is capable of rendering 80-90% of my fruit
unusable, including, apples, peaches, apricots, and even pears, European
and Asian.  It is a small insect, hard to see, works at night, and
attacks just as soon as the tiny fruits emerge.  If I am not out there
with Imidan spray, right at petal fall, I can see the percentage of
damaged fruit rise with each passing day.  In fact, I even jump the gun
a little, and start spraying when the petals show signs of drying up, to
try to protect the earliest set of fruit, since these are usually going
to be the largest and most beautiful.  Poor weather conditions at petal
fall, such as wind and rain, have sometimes caused me to delay spraying,
and I can see the damage rise exponentially.  Fortunately, we had very
good spraying conditions this spring, although we could sure use a rain

    Emerging fruits are not really hard.  On the contrary, they are at
the most tender and vulnerable point in their life cycle.  As they put
on some size, and the skins toughen up, the plum curculio starts to get
discouraged, and we can begin to worry about other things, like codling
moth and apple maggot.

    If you can describe your p.c. damage as "occasional", you may not
have a serious problem (I don't remember exactly where you are
located).  You can pretty well eliminate p.c. from your orchard with
cover sprays and good orchard hygiene --- picking up the drops.  But if
you have neighboring properties with untended fruit trees, as I do,
there is a continuous fresh supply of the insects.  I don't really
understand why your p.c. damage, if it is that, does not seem to
seriously affect your fruit.  In my orchard, a p.c. damaged fruit will
be distorted, wormy, and is thinned off immediately when spotted.

    Most of the commonly available chemicals, such as Sevin, Diazinon,
and the "combination" orchard sprays (malation, methoxychlor and captan)
are ineffective against p.c..  Imidan is the only one that works for me,
and it has now disappeared from the shelves of local stores, as has
Sevin.  I don't know what hobby fruit growers are expected to use, but
it may be that the EPA or some other federal agency is putting pressure
on manufacturers to keep more and more garden chemicals out of the hands
of consumers.  It is also possible that liability issues are influencing
the chemical manufacturers, as you can be successfully sued in this
country for just about anything you make or do.  This has brought us
lawn mowers that kill the engine when you let go of the handle, and if
it keeps up, the whole country will eventually grind to a halt.

Rgds, Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA


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