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Apple Maggot

Apple Maggot : The apple maggot (AM), also known as the “railroad-worm”, is a potentially serious pest, but has not been a noticeable problem in commercial orchards in the mid-Atlantic region in recent memory.

Apple Maggot

Apple Maggot

The adult apple maggot is a two-winged fly slightly smaller than the common housefly, about 1/5 of an inch. It is black except for white bands on the abdomen, three on the male and four on the female, and a white spot on the upper surface of the body near the point where the wings attach. The wings are transparent with conspicuous black markings. The maggots themselves are small, white, peg-shaped, legless larvae or worms.

Hosts : Apple, especially early maturing and sweet varieties, and the native hawthorns Crataegus spp. are the preferred hosts of apple maggot. In addition, the apple maggot will attack crab apple, pear, cherry, plum and apricot especially when these fruit are planted near heavily infested apple or hawthorns.

Life Cycle: Apple maggots spend the winter in the ground as nonfeeding pupae. They begin to emerge from the soil as small about 1/4 inch long flies starting in July. You can identify an apple maggot fly from the characteristic black and white banding pattern on its wings and a conspicuous white spot on the body. These flies do not all appear at the same time, but emerge at different times from early July until September. Peak emergence usually occurs from late July through early August.

Apple maggot flies tend to emerge from the soil soon after a moderate rainfall. Once they emerge, apple maggots stay in the general area. They fly from tree to tree, although they usually do not move more than 200 or 300 yards at a time. They can be found on apple tree foliage, fruit, or bark as well as nearby trees, shrubs, and weeds.

About seven to ten days after emergence, adult females start to lay eggs. They possess a sharp ovipositor egg laying apparatus that pierces the skin of the apple and allows eggs to be inserted into the apple flesh. One egg is laid per site, although more than one egg is often laid in a single apple. In about five to ten days, egg hatch into cream colored legless maggots that feed and tunnel in the flesh of the fruit, leaving brown ‘tracks’ or trails.

The larvae live for three to four weeks. They usually finish their development once the apples fall to the ground. After the maggots mature, they exit the fruit and burrow several inches into the soil to pupate where they remain until the following summer. There is one generation a year, although a few pupae may remain in the soil for two winters

Damage: Ovipositional egg-laying wounds are seen as small dimples or pin pricks on the skin of the apple. This can cause deformation of the developing fruit or cause rapid decay of the area on softer varieties. The developing maggots tunnel throughout the fruit feeding on the ripening tissue. As the infestation progresses, brown squiggly lines appear on the fruit as the apple undergoes rapid ripening and decay. Infested fruit is unmarketable and unappetizing for most people. Early maturing and thin-skinned varieties of apples are more susceptible due to their timing and tendency of softer flesh.

Monitoring : Adult apple maggot flies are monitored most effectively by sticky red spheres baited with apple volatile lures or less effectively with yellow sticky traps. Three traps are recommended per block, near the border, one to two rows in from the edge. Traps should be placed in the orchard around mid June, about head height, positioned so they are surrounded by fruit and foliage but not touched by them or obstructed from view. Traps should be inspected and cleaned weekly. If no insecticide residue remains, a contact insecticide application is recommended immediately when an average of five flies per trap are captured. Capture of flies for 1 to 14 days following an insecticide application can be discounted.

Apple Maggot Damage

Apple Maggot Damage

Controls: In areas where apple maggot is established, the pest is managed with sprays of organophosphate insecticides targeted to the first emerging adult flies. Not all orchards require treatment. Use sticky traps for detection and treatment timing. If apple maggots are found in counties where it is not yet established, notify the county agricultural commissioner.

Because the apple maggot feeds within fruit, biological control agents have not been very effective. Baited sprays such as GF-120 are organically acceptable. Mass trapping with dark-colored, plastic sticky spheres has been used by organic growers in the greatly reduce damage. Replace traps when sticky material is no longer effective.

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