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Good Gardening: Apple Worms

John Fischer

If you have an apple tree you have wormy apples come harvest time. Commercial orchards control the coddling moth and apple maggot- using both organic and chemical methods. But for the backyard grower with one or two trees, getting worm free apples isn't worth the bi-weekly spraying and continuous monitoring necessary.

However, a once and done method of best control - bagging - is practiced in many other countries, and can be an effective way to assure that you get some worm free, storable fruit from your tree. I use "footies”- the little nylon socks, but paper or plastic bags can also be effective.

Spraying kaolin clay - It goes by the brand name "Surround" can also protect apples and pears from insect damage. You spray it on the immature fruit, and it will greatly reduce the percentage of wormy apples.


When I have time, I do a combination of clay and bags by coating the bags with clay to set up a double deterrent. Watch the videos below to see how to get the clay onto the bags easily.

Bagging some of my apples is not a chore. It gets me out in the fresh air up close and personal with the growing trees, the birds, and the sunshine.

Pruning your trees to keep them low makes bagging and spraying clay easier. Cutting out the wormy parts of an apple will still leave you with 90% of the fruit. And very early apples like Lodi and Yellow Transparent often mature before the pests are around.

But if you want worm free mid and late season apples, one or two applications of clay, or a single bag can give you apples that will store into the winter, and never provide half a worm as a surprise.

John Fischer is a Master Gardener and Master Recycler and the host of KLCC's Good Gardening and Living Less Unsustainably.