Let Us Spray
by Bob Zimmerman
Do you have fruit trees in your yard? Now is the time to give them a good spraying. Dormant oil spray can be used safely and is a good deterrent on a number of bugs that can attack your trees. It is just mineral oil with a few drops of detergent as an emulsifier. You can purchase mineral oil at the hardware store and is much cheaper than the oil sold at nurseries. It basically works by coating and suffocating the eggs and emerging larvae. Using a special spray bottle attached to your garden hose, thoroughly drench the fruit trees before the blossoms open. It is not 100% effective but does help to reduce the incidence of coddling moth larvae in apples, aphids on cherries and peach tree borer. It’s important to soak the bark of these trees for maximum control.
This is a good time to hang out coddling moth traps near your apple trees as well. They contain a pheromone which attracts the males which then get stuck on the sticky trap, preventing them from mating with females and reducing the number of eggs laid. They are a bit pricey, but worth it ( unless you like having wormy apples!) Water all your fruit trees regularly now that they begin to flower. Stressed out fruit trees will attract pests, especially aphids. I do not recommend chemical sprays for aphid control as that will also kill beneficial ladybugs and lacewings. Just keep your trees well watered throughout fruit production.
This is also a good time to spray your piñon trees with dormant oil too. If you see little black dots on yellowing needles, that’s piñon scale. It’s endemic here and will not kill the tree, but will cause significant needle drop making the tree look rather anemic. The oil will suffocate the eggs and larvae of the insect and significantly reduce the infestation. Also, scrape up and dispose of the dried needles underneath the tree.
You may find white fuzzy masses there, which are the nests of the scale insect. Thoroughly soak the area with the dormant oil spray as well. During the spring and summer look for these fuzzy masses on the undersides of the pine branches and hose them off forcefully with hose nozzle.
Using dormant oil spray is an environmentally responsible way to help control a number of pests in your yard. No harmful chemicals, and the bees and beneficial insects in your yard will love you for it!