We have an ancient cherry tree in our garden from which we suspect that it might be as old as the house, which means about 70 years. It’s trunk is that thick that I can’t wrap my arms around it! Being here for so long means that all sorts of animals and insects have set base in and around the tree and got comfortable. One of them sadly is the cherry fruit fly. And that means: maggots in our cherries. In this post we’ll explain how to get rid of maggots in your cherries – even if your cherries are already infested.
In 2019 we had a maggot first in every third cherry we harvested, then in every second and towards the end of the cherry season in every cherry we harvested. So what to do about it? As it was too late for preventative measures I resorted to simply “scaring them” out of every cherry I harvested before further processing the harvest. The video below shows the simple method I used and it worked pretty well!
I know that this is not for everybody. But as long, as the cherries are not too old you will not notice if there once was a maggot in there or not. You just have to get them out and will be left with beautiful fruit. We tried to harvest the cherries as early as possible, which means that the maggots that might be in there are still small and the cherries aren’t too damaged. After the water bath your cherries will be mostly or even completely maggot free! The sweeter the cherries get, the likelier it is that the skin will rip in the water bath. To counteract that you could try mixing the water with sugar. But as I wanted to make jam or cake out of mine anyway I didn’t bother doing that.
Prevent Maggots in Cherries
This year I will try to minimize the pressure of this pest by introducing nematodes in the earth surrounding the tree. But still im sure I’ll need the method shown in the video once again. Of course we could use pesticides but that goes against all of our gardening values. We promised ourselves not use any chemicals whatsoever.
It also helps to pic up and carry away any cherries that fall down. They are likely to contain a maggot that will crawl out, bury itself in the ground and pupate. The following year it will evolve into a fly and the cycle start all over.
You can also cover the ground in a very fine netting in the spring, which is when the flies hatch and go on the search for green/yellowish cherries to lay their eggs on. The netting keeps them trapped at the ground. You need to make. sure it is very fine though. Some people hang yellow sticky traps in the tree which could help too.
Maggot Prevention with Nematodes
I’m curious about how the Nematodes work. A Nematode is a microscopical small worm. There are countless species of them, each specialized in a narrow eco system to live in and on specific pray to feed of. You need to take good care when electing the nematode species you want to use. Some can turn out to do more harm than good when they get introduced in high numbers. They can even start to attack your plants or kill of beneficial insects. Even parasitic nematodes exist.
On the other side there are for example nematodes that specialize in killing of ant larvae or the special mites. Others only go for fly eggs and larvae of that live in the ground. They are called Steinernema. And those are the ones interesting for our problem. The plan is to spread a generous amount of nematode-infested water all around our tree in early spring. They need moist soil to move and prosper so I will be checking the weather closely and watering the earth if necessary.
I had great success with introducing them into my containers where they helped to keep fungus gnats at bay. So I’m hopeful that they at least reduce the pest pressure to a more manageable one.
Have you more tips on how deal with fruit fly? Have you ever tried beneficial nematodes? Let us now in the comments!