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Worms-the "bad" type, in everything

 
gardener
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Maybe I have just reached that age of the food forest, but there's maggots/worms/larva in almost every fruit I grow.  I have bats. I have lady bugs. I have birds. There's skunks and opossums. There's spiders. There's a variety of fruit and set up dispersed. In other words, I followed the rules to not have everything eaten by maggots, but no luck! Most of my grapes, my acorns, my peaches, apples and pears even have them. It could be because I planted all at once and so the prey arrived and now we're awaiting the predator population to compensate. However, with slugs I found adding cakcium, diatomaceous earth and coffee grounds solved my problem. Any tricks for this situation? I tried buying predator wasps. I need to get some praying mantis still and some other predator bugs that eat fruit flies.  They seem to be absent. Is it possible my problem is a lack of chickens? Any advice much appreciated!! Next year I am thinking of using a lot of diatomaceous earth, but I don't like using it because it can also hurt the good soft bodied bugs.
 
gardener
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I don't know if chickens will solve your pest problem,  but they could turn your otherwise wasted fruit into a food source.
You might also  get something from these spoilt fruits in the form of wines or vinegars.
 
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The female moths that lay the eggs that turn into the larva you find in fruit are often flightless and crawl up the trees, so bats wouldn't catch them.  Know your enemy.  The conventional remedy is a sticky barrier around the trunk - I'm not sure that's altogether anathema in permaculture?
 
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Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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What Hester said is so important.  Try to ID the pests.  Each tree is likely to have a different one, at least stone fruits and apples will be different and grapes, something else yet.

I have in the past used a little tanglefoot on cards hanging from the tree branches to get an idea of what's flying in.  Maybe another method to catch some who crawl?

I think knowing who's causing the destruction and then their particular life cycle can help in control.

With peaches in particular, I know a lot can be prevented over the winter.  Scraping the bark and looking for egg cases (again, identify, so good bugs stay) and brown rot.  During the season picking up old fruit is important.  Cleaning out peach borer damage at the base of the trunk...etc.

One example, that takes Identifying the bug and learning it's lifecycle....Curculio damage can be lessened by shaking the tree on to a sheet as soon as the tree is blooming to catch the curculio before they lay eggs in the newly emerging peach.  I think the same method would help any stone fruit.  They fly in, lay eggs in the new fruit.  The larvae develop in the fruit all during the growing season and emerge about the time we are picking nice ripe peaches....in a bad year (or good year for the curculio) they are in every peach.
Here's a link to their life cycle (ignore their treatment method though, there are other ways, once we know the life cycle) ... http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-4896/EPP-7078.pdf

 
pollinator
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I think you answered your own question :) What happens with excess fruits? Probably drops on the ground and rots? Or maggots find them, and they rot while on the branch? Introduce chickens to eat excess fruits and maggots. So that not all them will be able to come back next year. It is hard for natural predators to keep the pressure when there are booms in pest population.
There are people way -waaay- more knowledgeble than me on the subject, but here is my experience. If fruit tree canopy area is more than 25-30% of the total area; then the system is not in balance (if you include nut trees too, then it needs to be something 50-60% nuts and fruits - 40-50% fixers and mulch generators). Any fruit produced than that is excessive, which will create a network for pests to navigate through without encountering predators. Even these figures are upper limit, I prefer to aim for 10-20%, to keep work minimum.
Hope it helps
 
Amit Enventres
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s. ayalp wrote:I . If fruit tree canopy area is more than 25-30% of the total area; then the system is not in balance (if you include nut trees too, then it needs to be something 50-60% nuts and fruits - 40-50% fixers and mulch generators). Any fruit produced than that is excessive, which will create a network for pests to navigate through without encountering predators. Even these figures are upper limit, I prefer to aim for 10-20%, to keep work minimum.
Hope it helps



Well, you got me there. That particular area is 100%fruit, full canopy. I'm not sure how much I can fix that because I am experimenting in Temperate Suburban permaculture,  so I have to have everything super productive and dense.  I definitely see the addition of birds to the mix as necessary and the next step to trying and making this work.  Instead of fruit I'll get protein.

I also still need to fill in some understory and vine area so maybe I can find something slightly disruptive as well as edible. Herbs are supposed to help, but they are mostly full sun.

I also am missing frogs from the property. None exist. So,  perhaps that puzzle piece will also tip the balance in my favor.

Thank you
 
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I find a common problem in developed areas (and by this I mean "disturbed areas", whether rural or urban) is the lack of local predators.  In my area, for instance, aside from smaller predaceous bugs, lizards are the primary predators on problem insects.  However, local species of lizards can't survive in my developed area because they by nature demand large habitats, making them vulnerable to cats and causing them to get "lost" in the surrounding area where they don't have the cover and conditions they prefer.  One of my solutions has been to introduce several species that would normally be found in developed areas, but don't occur in this area.  They can't invade the surrounding area here because of the horrendous heat, cold, and drought.  But they do well where they have cover and supplemental water.  I've seen several generations minimum of these species.  I have one viviparous ground skink, one type of shrub-dwelling anole, and a nocturnal gecko which have basically eliminated black widows and all but the big American roaches.  In addition I have a number of turtles and tortoises patrolling the grounds.  The box turtles are omnivorous, picking off bugs and eating fallen or low-lying fruit, and the tortoises also pick off the dropped fruit.  In addition, I tolerate a wide variety of the bugs you mention but also some not-so-well-known predators, like the paper wasps, which are constantly patrolling the garden, as are robber flies, dragonflies, and damsel flies.  Also a local assassin bug and the lacewings are important predators.  Even ants can be helpful.  Birds may attack the fruit, but also attack the insects on the fruit.  I am also introducing toads to patrol at night.  They only need a consistently wet place to stay in the day, and some simply dig in and wait when the sun comes up.  Just my 2 cents.  Growing fruit in the absence of pesticides is tricky and most of the successful people in this area have certain cultivars that they lucked into which worked out for them.
 
master pollinator
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As already mentioned, one needs to identify the particular pests and examine their lifecycle, looking for vulnerabilities. At the very least, all damaged and wasted fruits must be removed from the area in a timely fashion. If the lifecycle includes maggots in the fruits, and those fruits are allowed stay on the tree or to lay on the ground and rot, you are simply raising more pests in your area.

Where I live I have coffee bean borers. So on my farm, all damaged coffee beans and all beans that have dropped to the ground must be removed as soon as possible. And those beans have to be destroyed in some fashion to kill the pests. I boil them before adding them to my compost piles. By simply searching for damaged beans and removing them ASAP, I keep my damage to around 5% of the crop. People who don't do this or take other timely steps to control the pest often end up with 20% or more loss of their crop. I've heard of people losing 40% to 60% where damaged beans were allowed to drop to the ground.

If you are looking for Mother Nature to deal with the problem.....well, she is. She has a thriving ecology of insect life, using the fruit as a base for the lifecycle. But you apparently don't agree with Mother Nature and want the fruit for yourself. So you're going to have to interfere in some way. You've create a monoculture fruit area. It doesn't matter that there are different fruits, it's still monoculture fruit production. And monoculture isn't working because the pests are finding a dense amount of food in a small area. If I were you, in order to deal with this I'd ....
.....stop expecting Mother Nature to solve my problem
.....identify the specific pests for each crop
.....look for vulnerabilities
.....try to find permaculture means to take advantage of those vulnerabilities
I guess I would take this approach because I see Mother Nature and permaculture to be two different methods. Being a homestead farmer myself, I place emphasis on permaculture.
 
pollinator
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I agree with Su Ba.

All that is left for you now is to be the pest control yourself, Amit. You've essentially created a literal "sweet spot," where the concentration of food value there far outweighs anything around it. The scent trail on your operation is going to be huge, comparatively speaking, and it's worse when fruit drops, because any pest that scents ethylene from the rotting fruit will be on it in a flash.

There's lots of good advice here. I would suggest a hot compost of the affected windfalls if you can't get chickens in there. If you can get anything like a pond in there, some habitat for frogs and toads, that might greatly help, even if it's a quarter-barrel-sized sealed hole in the ground with mechanical aeration and some amphibian habitat species.

But after ensuring that fallen fruit was dealt with, I would focus on scent distraction, pollinator habitat, and measures to draw predatory insects. I would plant up any peripheral space, and any already unused trophic niches, in plants that are smelly, and perhaps that feed pollinators well.

I really wouldn't want to try and squeeze any more food plants in, at least no fruit, and nothing sweet and pungent, likely to draw pests. What plants do you grow that are eaten for their stems, shoots, leaves, or roots? Except perhaps for the tubers, those are less likely to be draws for the types of pests you're dealing with in the fruit and nuts.

Unfortunately, I think it's the "too much of a good thing" thing again. Yes, I love food forests. Yes, I'd like them everywhere. But to have a disproportionate amount of what you're growing being food, and fruit at that, is biologically akin to monoculture. A variety of plants are being grown, but their characteristics are so similar that they are easily preyed upon by one or two of the same pests.

That raises an interesting question, to me anyways: to what extent do we see that type of food species crowding in forests of any type? Do we see forests that are exclusively fruit and nut trees?

I don't think it's a symptom of that age of food forest. I think it's a system out of balance that Nature is trying to correct.

What is the potential outcome if She doesn't? I don't know for certain, but I imagine that pests that are attracted to overcrowded conditions might slow or stop the development of plant pathogens, or opportunistic fungi, by thinning things out and killing off that which there is too much of in any given space. Is it possible that this type of infestation exists to ensure we aren't breeding up stone fruit equivalents of Dutch Elm Disease or Chestnut Blight?

Is it possible that some aspects of what some of us aspire to do might actually not be so great for the greater ecology in the long run?

-CK
 
Jerry Davis
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I think S Ayalp hit the crux of the problem.  Is the idea to have a commercial orchard, personal sustenance, or just gardening?  Here we don't have the same problems because orchards aren't possible (although small orchards exist in the higher mountain ranges) due to the prohibitive nature of the water supply.  However we have miles of pecan trees which obviously don't present the problem of raw fruit in the trees or on the ground.  Maybe susbstitute nut trees of various types for fruit trees although, of course, it will be a number of years to recognize the benefit.
 
gardener
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hau Amit, I have to agree with SuBa, you have created a monoculture space, and you are seeing the down side to the monoculture system.
It doesn't matter if you have a variety of fruit trees, concentrating them into one area invites pest critters and diseases to come and flourish in your fruit Eden.
Adding nut trees might have an effect but I doubt that it would reduce the pest pressure on the fruit trees since most nut trees have different pests than fruit trees.

Bringing in predator insects might work for a short time, but most likely they will disperse from your area for the most part.
The lack of frogs means lack of water holes (the usual limiting factor), so either installing some water holes or placing water troughs might invite frogs and toads to come live there. (they are the critters that prey on the smaller bugs)
Dragon flies are also great predators of smaller, flying insects, these guys also need a steady water supply.

SuBa and Chris brought up a lot of good points.
I wish you success.

Redhawk
 
I got this tall by not having enough crisco in my diet as a kid. This ad looks like it had plenty of shortening:
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