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Insects Of The Fruit Patch

( Originally Published 1915 )



The Codling Moth.—The codling moth is perhaps the best subject with which to begin the study of insects unless it be in neighborhoods where apples are not grown. The presence of this insect in a child's apple which he brought for his dinner, impresses the importance of the study of insects upon him.

In the United States the codling moth causes us to sustain an annual loss of about $12,000,000. Ask the children to visit the orchard or apple pile and determine what percentage of the apples are wormy. Ask them to visit the cellar and search, especially in the barrel in which the apples were stored, for the white downy cocoons. The cocoons may also be found safely ensconced behind pieces of bark on some rough apple, plum, or cherry tree. Ask the children what they think the downy wood-pecker is doing as he searches around the apple trees in winter days.

The codling-moth eggs are laid by a moth about half an inch long and so colored as to resemble closely the grayish bark on which it prefers to rest. The first batch of eggs are laid, it is now thought, on the foliage and in the blossom about the time the apples bloom, each female produces from 50 to 80 eggs, and there are supposed to be two broods each season. The larve hatch and feed for a time on the foliage, then gradually make their way to the little apples and, as soon as hairy surface or papilla, begin to dig their way in. They prefer to enter at the calyx end, but may enter where an apple touches a limb, a leaf or another apple. The larvae rapidly eat their way to the core of the apple and then feed on the pulp around the core until grown, after which they eat their way out. They crawl to some place under the bark, or drop to the ground and enter cracks, crawl under stones, clods, or leaves and there spin their cocoons. From the cocoons they emerge as the brown moths ready to lay eggs and go through the Iife cycle again.

The codling moths spoil our thoughts of using cider, cider vinegar, unfermented apple juice or of eating an apple. Their presence detracts from the value of the fruit when we try to sell it. Codling moths cause a large number of apples to drop prematurely. They are a nasty, loathsome, useless pest, known and written about since the time of Cato.

The methods of control which the teacher should urge are, first, the increasing of the natural enemies of the codling moth ; second, the cleaning of the old bark and trash where the insects may pupate ; third, spraying. All of the woodpeckers and flickers are known to prey upon the codling moth. Professor Hodge figures that a downy woodpecker eating one codling moth a day from November to April would save, with apples at 50 cents per bushel, $585 worth of fruit each season. Another little despised helper, despised because of the ignorance of the school teachers and country school children, is the bat. Since the bat preys on the codling moth and because the codling moths fly only at night, the bat becomes during the egg-laying season our most efficient helper. As mentioned in Professor Slinger-land's quotation earlier in this chapter, the codling moth has an enemy which consists of a very small four-winged fly which deposits its eggs inside the codling-moth eggs where they hatch and eat the life out of their host. There are numerous other parasites which prey upon the codling moth or act as scavengers to clean up the remains after the larvae have been killed by enemies. There is a tachinid fly, and in Europe a number of other insect enemies. Some of these enemies have been recently introduced into California and, should they be found efficient there, will no doubt spread to other States.

In addition to the woodpeckers, the blue bird, king bird, crow, crow-blackbird, black-headed grosbeak, warbling vireo, chickadee, bush-tit and jays are known to be enemies of the codling moth. By tying pieces of bread crusts, suet, etc., on to the limbs of the apple trees, also seeing that these birds get water, we may encourage them to stay longer in the fall and to come earlier in the spring.

If we have to resort to spraying we should use Paris green or, better, arsenate of lead with the Bordeaux mixture (see Chapter XV), and spray just after the petals have fallen so as to get some of the poison inside the calyx before it closes. It may be necessary for the teacher to give a series of lessons on the parts of a flower. The names may be found in any text-book on botany, and school economy demands that we teach them just when the pupil sees a need for them. Besides the names, a series of observations on how the flower opens and how the calyx closes will be interesting. If sprayed before the petals fall, we may poison many of the bees of the neighborhood and we must have bees if we are to grow fruit.

The Apple Maggot.—It may be the so-called worm in the apple is not the brown-headed, white, codling moth larva but instead the larva of the apple maggot. This larva comes from an egg laid by an insect which much resembles a house fly. The apple maggot fly is somewhat smaller than the house fly and has a peculiar figure on the wing which some think looks some-what like a turkey. It appears that this pest is to become second to the codling moth in injuring the apple crop. Each female lays from 300 to 400 eggs and thus may destroy one or two bushels of apples. The eggs are deposited inside the pulp of the apple and soon hatch. The larva then begins to bore its way through and back and forth in the apple. The apple falls and the larva emerges, goes into the ground and there pupates. In Maine, elaborate experiments have been made in order to discover the best means of controlling this pest. They found that the flies may be easily caught on the foliage, but this means hand picking. A more effective and cheaper method seemed to be the gathering of every windfall, or the pasturing of the orchard during the early part of the season with pigs or older hogs, well rung, which eat the windfalls. Close attention must be given to decaying apples and stored apples lest they become a source of spreading the pest. The refuse from stores and the remains of apples which we buy when our crop is short may infest a whole neighborhood with both the apple maggot and the codling moth. The Rhode Island Station came to the conclusion that frequent cultivation in the early part of the season helps some in controlling the maggot. But in that case birds and poultry must be asked to assist us. Nothing is known of the natural enemies of the apple maggot beyond the fact that nearly all birds prey upon both the larvae and the insects.

The Curculio.—Another insect very injurious to apples and cherries, but preferring plums, is the curculio. Her presence is indicated by the crescent-shaped cut with the dot inside which she cuts and punctures. She makes the crescent-shaped cut, that looks like an ugly girl's mouth, in order to give the larva air, and she punctures the little dot or pin-head hole in order to deposit her eggs inside the plum, apple or cherry. Inside the fruit the larva hatches and then eats its way to the centre. This causes the fruit to fall prematurely and then the larva emerges and pupates in the ground from one to four inches deep. From the ground it emerges again the same fall as a brown beetle. It passes the winter under bark, in cracks and buildings and then comes forth in spring to destroy from 100 to 200 pieces of fruit. Children should be taught that the first thing to do in order to keep the plums from being wormy is to pick up and destroy, by feeding to the pigs or by burning, every piece of fruit that falls before it is ripe. A sheet may be spread under the plum tree to catch the adult curculios which may be jarred into it by striking the tree with a heavy club with a piece of cloth around one end so as to prevent injury to the bark. The curculios " play 'possum " and double up as though dead, for some minutes. From the sheet they may be emptied into a pail and then burned. Thorough cultivation and the presence of chickens do much to keep the curculio in check. In fact, for most of the year, the plum orchard and the chicken yard should be one and the same yard.

Other Insects.—There are many other insects the presence of any one of which may make it necessary for the teacher to send to her Experiment Station for information and for her to give a series of observation periods and lessons on life, habits, and most approved methods of controlling that particular in-sect. There are leaf-curlers and folders for several kinds of trees. Melons, cabbage, strawberries and other plants invite their particular enemies. There are a number of insects which have the pernicious habit of eating just under the bark of trees. These are called borers. Some of them prefer peach trees and hence are called peach borers; others are apple borers, grapevine borers, currant borers ; some have flat heads and are called flat-head borers ; others have pointed or round heads and take their names after the shape of their heads.

Some insects make spider-web-like tents in the twigs of trees and are called tent caterpillars. Often they have to be destroyed with a torch but sometimes their nests may be cut off and taken to the house, and burned. If " a penny saved is a penny earned," and if " a stitch in time saves nine," then an insect destroyed is a tree saved, and an insect destroyed in the fore part of the season may be better than a hundred destroyed later.

There is another class of insects which the ordinary observer calls scales, hence the name San Jose scale, cottony cushion scale, oyster shell scale, etc. The neglect of the San Jose scale may mean the quick eradication of the fruit industry of a whole community. A bright-eyed teacher may often, by detecting the presence of one of these pests, save to the community more than her wages for years. Not all will appreciate her good work but, as Shakespeare says, " There be one or two whose good opinion outweighs the hundred," and the consciousness that one has done his duty is often compensation enough.

The Beneficial Insects.—A series of lessons should certainly be given on the beneficial insects: Bees, wasps, lady-beetles, ichneumon-flies of which there are many species, syrphus and tachina-flies, chalcis-flies, braconids, damsel-flies, dragon-flies, ant-lion, tiger and bombardier-beetles should all be recognized and their presence encouraged by farmers. Nor should we neglect those that are beautiful but neither harmful nor beneficial beyond giving us pleasure by their beautiful form and graceful movements. Among these are some of the butterflies, cecropia, promethea, etc.

Bees in the Country.—Bee-keeping is an old, old industry and yet the knowledge of how to keep bees in a modern hive and care for them in modern ways is of very recent origin. Bees are very necessary for the man who would succeed with fruit. Poorly pollinated fruit is frequently misshapen fruit. Teachers should see that each pupil who graduates from a country school, whether graded or ungraded, is familiar with the parts and functions of a bee-keeper's equipment. Hive, body, super, frame, section, smoker, veil, gloves, excluder, queen trap, brooders, and other apparatus should be taken to the school-room and lessons on how to use and how to keep them clean and free from bee diseases should be given.

The life history, the kinds of bees in a hive, the functions of . each, and how best to care for and breed desirable ones should be discussed. One or two bee booklets should be made by children who come from homes where bees are kept. Some of the pupils should be led to take bee-keeping for their home project. It is not intended that these home projects shall be followed necessarily as a life work. It is the aim to teach children to do some things and to do them well. The boy is more of a boy when he has become complete master of a home project.

The kind of bees—with emphasis on the kind—that has been found best for the locality should be taught. The sources of honey, honey as food, and how to keep and market it should also be taught. Where to locate the apiary, and how to keep it free from the deadly bee diseases are well worth learning.

Spraying.—Man has not been able to control insects altogether by good farm practices and by coaxing the birds to help him. There are times when he must poison or spray or poison by spraying. For the purpose of knowing what to do to rid places of insects by using chemicals, we classify the insects into biting and sucking. Biting insects may be poisoned by some form of arsenic. Sucking insects must be smothered by some oil preparation, kerosene emulsion, tobacco-soap emulsion, whale oil emulsion or some similar preparation.

Among the biting insects are the Colorado potato beetle, commonly called the potato bug, the army worm, the cut-worm, the cabbage worm, the currant worm, the tobacco worm, and the many different bill bugs. Among the sucking insects are the mosquitoes, the plant lice, and the San Jose scale.

For killing biting insects we use Paris green, white arsenate of lead, or some prepared spray mixture. The spray formulae are given in Chapter XV. Some scale insects require a spray so strong that it would kill foliage and hence we spray for those insects during the winter and spring months before the leaves appear. For this we use some form of the lime sulphur mixture, formula for which is also given in Chapter XV.



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