The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Oriental fruit moth

Peach maggotOur peach tree had another surprise in store for me.  I chomped down on one of its luscious fruits...and spit that bite right back out, along with the maggot happily consuming the peach's center.  Yes, nearly every one of our peaches has a little blob of gum on the outside marking the entrance path of these little, white larvae.

The first step in combatting any insect infestation is figuring out what you've got, but I had quite a time identifying my maggot.  My handy Garden Insects of North America narrowed down the Gum on the outside of a peachplaying field to a mere score of "fruit chewers": plum curculio, plum gouger, cherry curculio, speckled green fruit worm, peach twig borer, eyespotted bud moth, oriental fruit moth, navel orangeworm, lesser appleworm, cherry fruit-worm, mineola moth, cherry fruit sawfly, apple maggot, walnut husk fly, cherry fruit fly, western cherry fruit fly, black cherry fruit fly, chokecherry gall midge, European earwig, or green fruit beetles.

Oriental fruit moth larva

An expert at Bug Guide took a look and gave me a tentative ID of coddling moth or oriental fruit moth, the latter of which is more likely as a pest of peaches.  Although most of the mainstream websites tell me to spray chemicals on my tree, an Australian site recommends running chickens in the orchard.  I wonder if putting up a temporary fence around our peach trees and running chickens inside during critical periods in the spring and fall would be sufficient to cut down on our peach damage?

That Australian site (which I am thoroughly impressed by) also suggested some other permaculture style control measures for the oriental fruit moth. My favorite involves taking advantage of the fact that the moth goes through several generations in a year.  Before the fruit are large, the larvae instead grow inside twigs, which are highly visible because they wilt and produce gum.  By cutting off and destroying these infested twigs in the spring, you Basket of peachescan cut back the population, which means there won't be adults present to lay eggs on your precious peaches.

A final method of control involves putting out artificial pheremones around the tree.  These pheremones mimic the scent emitted by the female moth when she's trying to attract a mate, so they disrupt the moths' mating behavior.  At four pheremone ties per tree, replaced twice a year, though, this method could add up.

Despite the problematic centers, our white peaches are growing on me.  I cut them in half and scoop out the bad spots, then gulp down half a dozen a day.  Now that they're at their peak of ripeness, I've discovered I prefer homegrown white peaches to storebought yellow peaches!

Our homemade chicken waterer solves another homesteading problem --- filthy chicken water.

Learn to keep bugs at bay

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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It sounds like you're still getting a pretty good harvest despite the pests. Most of the favorite soft fruits, like peaches and plums, are notoriously difficult to grow without using lots of chemicals. Did you plant a peach just to see if you could overcome the challenge in a permaculture way or it is just that it is a favorite fruit? I'm picking out some pear varieties to plant and it is a difficult choice between those least susceptible to blight and those with the best flavor.
Comment by Lisa Sun Aug 15 13:17:29 2010

You give my four-years-ago self way too much credit. :-) When I planted the first round of fruit trees, I thought I could just plant what I liked to eat, wait a few years, and then eat them. I feel like I'm still very much at the beginning of my fruit journey, figuring out which varieties of apples can survive our cedar apple rust, which types of grapes aren't so susceptible to Japanese beetles, and so forth.

On the other hand, even if I'd known peaches were hard, I probably would have tried them. I adore peaches. And our harvest is turning out to be awesome, all things considered!

Comment by anna Sun Aug 15 14:09:47 2010

One advantage to being old. I worked in peach orchards in my youth and remember (in the 1950s) when no exotic sprays were used. There was an abandoned apple orchard not far from where I grew up and I would carry gunny sacks full of apples down off the mountain where it sat. The fruit had "bad places" but were not at all difficult to use.

The plastic-looking fruit sold in grocery stores was not available in my youngest years. Through marketing, it became the standard replacing the older standard which included blemished, "imperfect" fruit.

Comment by Errol Sun Aug 15 16:28:12 2010
I'll bet that if there are any old orchards left around in our area from that era, we'd be smart to plant the varieties they planted. Perhaps that's why the apple trees I got from the heirloom apple guy in the next county over are growing like gangbusters while the ones I bought from further afield are ailing.
Comment by anna Sun Aug 15 18:08:19 2010

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