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Pest management for the home apple orchard

Jill MacKenzie, Jeff Hahn and Michelle Grabowski


Minnesotans who grow apples at home have to combat many insect pests and diseases to produce a good crop. Many apple growers reduce their use of pesticides, while still harvesting quality fruit, through a set of practices known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM includes a combination of pest management techniques including monitoring for pest problems, removing diseased or infested plant material from the area, and many other cultural control techniques. Pesticide sprays are used in IPM only when necessary, and gardeners may choose from conventional or organic spray options.

In order for IPM to be effective, home apple growers must be able to recognize the common pests of apples and the damage they cause. They need to coordinate their pest management actions with weather, tree growth stages, and pest life cycles. If pesticides are necessary, always use them exactly as labeled, per federal law.

An IPM approach assumes that good care is being taken of the apple trees. Consult the University of Minnesota Extension publication Apples in Minnesota home gardens for horticultural information. Good cultural practices—including site selection, variety and rootstock selection, proper planting, pruning, training, fruit thinning, irrigation, and harvest timing—all contribute to a satisfying harvest each year. In particular, well pruned trees allow for increased access to the tree canopy, making pest management tasks such as bagging fruit, monitoring diseases, placing traps, and applying pesticides easier and more successful.

Pest management schedule

Depending on pest pressure in the planting, some sprays may not be necessary. Read about the specific pest to determine how to monitor for the pest, and to learn what level of pest infestation can be tolerated. The time interval between repeated sprays varies depending on the pesticide used. Refer to the pesticide label to determine when to reapply. If disease resistant apple varieties are planted, sprays for that disease can be skipped.

Time of action Action or material Pest
Dormant season
(January – March)
Prune out diseased branches, remove mummy fruits fire blight
black rot
Check apple storage containers and buildings for cocoons and remove any that are discovered codling moth
Silver tipa– 1/2" Green tipb
(late April – early May)
copper formulations
**Only in trees with a history of fire blight infection***
fire blight
1/2" Green tipb
(late April – early May)
captan or lime-sulfur
Begin spray program; continue spraying at intervals specified on fungicide label.
**Unnecessary in scab resistant or immune varieties*
apple scab
Tight clusterc
(early May)
Hang delta trap with lure to determine if codling moth is present codling moth

Warm, humid days during bloom
Bacillus subtilis
**Only in trees with a history of fire blight infection***
fire blight
Monitor using paper plate in early morning for presence of plum curculio plum curculio
Petal falld
malathion or bifenthrin or esfenvalerate
***Only in trees with a history of plum curculio or codling moth***
plum curculio
codling moth
7-10 days after petal fall (May) malathion or bifenthrin or esfenvalerate
***Only in trees with a history of plum curculio or codling moth***
plum curculio
codling moth
After thinning fruit
(late June)
Bag each fruit OR hang red sphere traps apple maggot
End of primary scab season
(late June)
Examine leaves for apple scab spots. If present on leaves, continue fungicide sprays into August. apple scab
Drop of fruitlets
(late June)
Remove all fallen fruit from planting weekly throughout the season plum curculio
codling moth
apple maggot
Upon trapping 1-5 apple maggot flies
(July - August)
carbaryl or esfenvalerate or bifenthrin or spinosad
(continue to monitor and spray when necessary)
apple maggot
After harvest and leaf drop Rake up and dispose of all fallen fruit and leaves apple scab
apple maggot
codling moth

a Silver tip—when buds are just beginning to swell
b 1/2 inch green tip—when buds have opened and 1/2 inch of green leaf tissue is visible
c Tight cluster—when flower buds are visible but still small and completely closed
d Petal fall—when most of the petals have fallen

Reviewed 2011

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