In spring we reckon it’s a good idea to visit your fruit trees at least once a week, and have a really good look at the leaves, flowers, fruit and bark. It’s a good way to keep track of the health of your tree, and stay ahead of any disease issues that show up.
While you’re there, try to spot any critters living in and around the tree, like this great bug we found on an apricot tree.
It doesn’t matter if you can identify the bug or not (though that can sometimes be useful) – it’s safe to assume that it’s playing an important role in the ecosystem (like pollination, pest control, or acting as a food source for someone else), even if we don’t know what that is.
Many people mistakenly think pollination depends solely on bees, whereas in fact many insects play an important role (you can find out more about this important topic in Bees and Pollination).
Though it’s absolutely fascinating trying to figure out what sort of bugs you’ve got, identification is much less important than the fact that you have lots of biodiversity in your garden or on your farm. In short, the more different types of bugs you can count, the healthier your system is.
Why is biodiversity so important?
We often get questions from people who have noticed bugs or insects on their fruit or trees, and are wondering if they should get rid of them, and if so how?
That’s not our approach at all!
In a healthy, biodiverse system there should be literally thousands of different types of insects around, and they all play a part in an incredibly complex system that (if it’s not interfered with) will generally keep itself in balance.
Unless you’re an insect specialist, there’s little chance that you can identify them all or even understand whether they’re a “pest” or a “predator” – in fact, many are both. For example earwigs are a dratted nuisance in apricot and cherry trees, but a useful predator eating up millions of aphids in apple trees.
So we take a different approach.
Rather than focusing on the insects themselves, we focus on protecting our fruit and our fruit trees from damage.
The methodology we use, both on the farm and in our ebook What’s Bugging My Fruit? is not to try getting rid of the bugs (which is usually impossible, frustrating and expensive), but to understand their life cycle and look for vulnerabilities where we can often use small, easy, physical interventions to stop them doing damage to our precious fruit. Over many years of growing fruit organically we’ve found this method much more effective.
So when you’re doing your weekly inspections of your fruit trees, look for bugs, but also look for damage on the fruit and the trees, because that’s what will guide you as to the appropriate prevention techniques.