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Buzz Off My Apple Trees: How to Get Rid of Apple Maggots

Apple on a tree that is pockmarked and shows signs of apple maggot infestation. How to get rid of apple maggots
Apple maggot damage on apples. How do you get rid of apple maggots? Read on to find out... Photo credit: OrchardPeople.com.

How to get rid of apple maggots

An apple maggot infestation is a common problem that can ruin your autumn harvest. The fruit will look pockmarked and dimpled. And inside the flesh will have brown tunnels running through making your home-grown apples unappealing.

So the question is...how do you get rid of apple maggots?

There is one really effective way and it's by using insect barriers. I'll explain what they are in a minute. But to understand how they work, we need to know what an apple maggot's life cycle looks like.

Apple maggot fly on a green apple. how to get rid of apple maggots
Adult apple maggot females lay their eggs under the skin of the growing fruit on your tree. The eggs will hatch within days and a young maggot will emerge. Photo credit: OrchardPeople.com.

Understanding an apple maggot's life cycle

Apple maggots are part of a merry band of insect pests that destroy growing fruit on your apple tree. Their modus operandi is this:

  • Adult apple maggot flies lay their eggs under the skin of growing fruit on apple trees.
  • Those eggs hatch within a week and turn into tiny larvae.
  • The larvae, which look like tiny worms in your apples, burrow around the fruit, eating, pooping and having a wonderful time.
  • The larvae feed on your apples for up to a month. Then they drop to the ground where they will overwinter in the soil as pupae (the life stage between larvae and adult).
  • In the spring, the pupae emerge from their winter rest and develop into adulthood. Then the females flies will lay their eggs in the growing fruit on your apple tree.
  • At that point, the cycle starts all over again.

How do you get rid of apple maggots and protect the growing fruit on your tree? One effective technique is by using insect barriers. Let's see how they work.

Three apples on a tree covered with orchard sox. how to get rid of apple maggots
Orchard sox are one type of insect barrier that is effective in protecting growing fruit from apple maggot damage. Photo credit: OrchardPeople.com

Getting rid of apple maggots by stopping the cycle

So our goal as growers is to prevent those apple maggot flies from laying their eggs under the skin of the growing fruit and you can do this by slipping some sort of barrier onto the fruit when it is small – just about the size of a nickel.

One option is to use Orchard Sox, which are also called Maggot Barriers. You slip these nylon socks onto the baby fruit in the spring and tie each sock tightly so it doesn't slip off. As the apple grows the nylon sock will expand.

Once the young apples are protected, apple maggot adults can't get through the barrier to lay their eggs under the skin of the fruit. Learn how to apply orchard sox in the video below.

How to use orchard sox to protect growing fruit
Learn how to apply orchard sox in this video.
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Getting rid of apple maggots with bags or even boxes!

There are other options if you want to make your own maggot barrier. And one home grower I know did an experiment comparing a number of different methods.

In the early spring, Donna Lockey covered some of the fruit on her Gala apple tree in one of three ways.

Donna also left some of the fruit uncovered to see how the unprotected fruit would fare.

Three covered apples on a table. One is covered with a ziplock bag, one is covered with an Orchard Sock, and one is covered with a dollar store gift bag. how to get rid of apple maggots
There are different types of insect barriers that you can use to protect the apples on your fruit tree from codling moth damage. (Photo credit: Donna Lockey).

At harvest time, Donna noticed that the uncovered apples were pockmarked and had brown railroad track markings on the flesh. Both of these are signs of apple maggot damage.

Two pockmarked apples. This may be a sign of apple maggot damage. how to get rid of apple maggots
The Royal Gala apples that were not protected by Orchard Sox, sandwich bags, or gift bags were pockmarked and the flesh inside was brown in places. (Photo credit: Donna Lockey).

The sandwich bags offered some protection, but an earwig and a spider managed to infiltrate two of them.

The dollar store party favour bags worked well. It was easy to pull the tie to secure them. But these bags were too small to use on a larger apple variety like Honeycrisp Apples.

A larger insect exclusion bag, which is designed for this purpose, might have been a better option.

Two apples. One is in a plastic sandwich bag and there is an earwig inside. In the second image, a perfect apple sits on top of a dollar store gift bag. how to get rid of apple maggots

Donna liked the Orchard Sox best, but the downside was she didn't tie some of the socks tightly enough and they fell off.

The key, she says, is to tie the knot tightly to secure the bag to prevent it from slipping off the growing fruit on the tree.

Gala apples covered in orchard sox in a metal bowl. how to get rid of apple maggots
Donna's Royal Gala apples covered in orchard sox in bowl (Photo Credit Donna Lockey)

If you are creative, you may find other ways to protect the growing fruit. Ellen Conforti is a Florida resident who covered the apples on her tree with strawberry packaging containers.

The taped the plastic boxes around clusters of apples on her tree and was happy to have perfectly unblemished apples to harvest at the end of the growing season.

Apples on tree covered with plastic strawberry boxes/containers which are taped onto the tree to secure them in place. how to get rid of apple maggots.
You can protect the growing apples on your tree from apple maggot damage by taping clusters of apples into strawberry containers or other containers that you find at home! Photo credit: Ellen Conforti.

Keeping bugs off your fruit trees naturally

You can learn other ways to protect the growing fruit on your fruit trees in one of my other posts, called Keeping bugs off your fruit trees naturally.

Then, if you want to learn more about how to care for your fruit trees, consider checking out my online courses in fruit tree care.

Enjoy your fruit trees!

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, Orchard People will receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting our work at OrchardPeople.com!

Headshot of Susan Poizner

Susan Poizner

Director, OrchardPeople.com Fruit Tree Care Education

Learn more about Susan on the about us page. 

Susan Poizner and the cover of her eBook Grow Fruit Trees That Thrive

FRUIT TREE CARE NEWSLETTER

Sign up for our monthly newsletter and we will send you our eBook "Growing Fruit Trees That Thrive." You can unsubscribe at any time.
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