We’re being invaded!!

Things are always changing in the orchard. Some changes are good, like new varieties and plantings. But some changes can be difficult to deal with. Over the last few years two new invasive species have appeared in the USA and moved from south to north. The are in Michigan now, and they have an appetite for fruit! And that’s a change we growers are going to have to deal with.

SWD

Spotted Winged Drosophila

The first is the Spotted Winged Drosophila (SWD). That in itself is a mouthful. SWD is a fruit fly, not unlike the common fruit flies that everyone has seen hanging out in your house or at the produce department. You know that fruit flies like over-ripe fruit and fruit with a cut or a bad spot in it. That’s OK. We didn’t really plan on eating that bad fruit anyway, right? But that is where the SWD differs from your run of the mill fruit fly. You see, the Spotted Winged Drosophila likes nice sound fruit that is still hanging on the tree, vine or bush.  And that presents a problem. Because we don’t like bugs in our fruit, and neither do you! These little pests can go from egg to adult in as little as 8 days! So they have the potential to really disrupt the small fruit crops like raspberries, blueberries and cherries. We will have to find ways to control them at a very critical time–from just before the fruit is ripe to when you pick it! We are working on a fix for this invader. In the meantime, we have traps in our orchards to detect them when they arrive, and Michigan State University is providing us with research and information.

BMSB

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

The second unwelcome guest in our orchards is the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB). These bugs have been moving into Michigan over the last 5 years or so. They originated in Asia and apparently hitch-hiked here some years ago. The BMSB likes to chew on apples and peaches later in the summer and throughout the fall. Which once again presents a problem for growers and consumers of our fine Michigan fruits! Usually by August the pests that like apples have run their course for the year. But that is just when the BMSB is getting ramped up and hungry! And they can really do some damage when they are hungry! So like SWD, we are trapping for the Stink Bugs (aptly named I think). And when they show up we will be waiting for them. And hopefully we will be ready.

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BMSB damage on apples

So what do we do with these alien invaders? Building a wall won’t help because they can fly. And we can’t check them at the border either. They are already here, so we will have to have to deal with them. But, by working with scientists and biologists, we will find a way to solve the problem and continue to get those delectable apples and sweet cherries to you. Without surprises.

Have a fruitful week!

Tom Moelker

 

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Dog days of Summer

Looking outside tonight the lawn and the soybean field behind it are sparkling with fireflies. Its a spectacular light show! Sort of like a miniature 4th of July celebration. I’ve never seen so many! The warm weather makes the night insects really active this time of year. The windshield on your car will attest to that!

The heat seems relentless these days.They call these the “Dog Days” of summer. I always thought it was because the dog would just lay around in the heat of the day, but apparently  the saying has a little more science than that. Sirius, the dog star rises into the visible sky at this time of year, and that coincides with the hottest weeks of the summer. Who knew?? It is hard to do outdoor work in this weather. I think we should just call them “Fishing Days” and be done with it!

We do a lot to keep tabs on the insect populations in our orchards. It is important to know what bugs are out there, and what they are doing at any given time. So we have different traps for different insects scattered around throughout the farm. And every week it’s somebody’s job to check them and report the findings back to us. Michigan State University’s Extension Agents are a big part of the picture too. They keep us informed as to what insects are coming and going, what kind of damage they do, and how to keep track of them. If we find something out of the ordinary, they can usually identify it for us. All of this information helps us to make informed decisions about control measures we can take and when to act. There are even good bugs, that help us by preying on the bad bugs that do damage to our fruit. Here are some of the different traps we use. Each is for a specific insect. From left to right: Codling Moth, Apple Maggot, Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.

Coldling moth trap Apple maggot trap BMSB trap

Last week my brother sent me a pic of a scary looking insect.”They  look like huge wasps and they are coming out of the ground!” he texted. I didn’t know what they were either, so I forwarded it on to Amy Irish-Brown, my local MSU extension agent. She is a wiz at identifying this kind of thing. Sure enough, within a minute I got my answer. “It’s a Cicada Killer.” she replied. “They won’t bite humans, but they work in the ground laying eggs in Cicada larvae there” Amazing stuff!

cicada killer

Cicada Killer

Sometimes things show up that confound us. Last week Travis came into the house and announced: “There’s a Pokemon in the backyard!” I didn’t know how to react. “Do I spray for it or do I  shoot it?” I asked him. It seems the Pokemon Go people chose to make  a checkpoint out of our walnut tree. That would explain why kids kept wandering into our yard staring at their phones. And cars would stop in front of the house or in our driveway, sit there for a few minutes and then drive away. At any time day or night! I guess we never know who might show up on the farm, but it’s not for lack of trying!

Hope you have a fruitful week!

Tom Moelker