How to Protect Fruit Trees from Squirrels, Raccoons and Birds, Hunker

How to Protect Fruit Trees from Squirrels, Raccoons and Birds


The best way to protect fruit trees from squirrels, raccoons and birds is to use a combination of repellents, scare tactics and barriers. Making your yard unattractive to uninvited fruit eaters and triggering their fears of predators will discourage them from eating your trees’ fruit before you can pick it.

Make Habitat Changes

Taking away unnecessary sources of food, water and cover discourages pest animals from staying in a yard to breed and eat the fruit harvest. Don’t feed pets outdoors. Fix all leaking sprinklers and faucets, and dump all water containers. Cut back brush near the fruit trees to reduce nesting sites and cover for birds. Pruning nearby trees limits squirrels’ aerial highway access. Unnecessary branches and structures such as fences near fruit trees increases the ways squirrels and raccoons can get the fruit. U.S. federal laws protect all wild birds, their nests, eggs and young — except for certain pigeons, English starlings and English sparrows. The protection includes birds and nests on private property. Some squirrel species are protected, and laws about squirrels and raccoons vary by state. Many states prohibit trapping wild animals and releasing them in a different location.

Repel the Invaders

Several items can be used to try to deter animals. For example, the scent from human hair or dog hair spread on the ground around fruit trees may help repel squirrels and raccoons from those areas. Collect the hair from brushes, or use hair removed during a haircut. Blood meal doesn’t keep raccoons away for long, however, and no commercial repellents have been proven to keep them away, according to the University of California Integrated Pest Management Online. If you want to try repellents, the best strategy is to rotate different products because raccoons and squirrels are quick to notice no threat is connected with the products’ aromas. Commercial formulas contain ingredients that suggest danger or irritate the sensitive noses of garden pests; the ingredients include synthetic predator scent, capsaicin and rotten eggs. Spray the repellent on the fruit trees, and reapply it after a rainfall.

Use Scare Devices

Reflective products such as scare-eye balloons and bird tape often are used to scare birds, and they may startle invading squirrels and racoons, too. The shiny tape makes a crackling sound in wind. Scarecrows, model owls with bobble heads and devices that emit hawk screeches or electronic distress calls also deter birds. Use more than one scare tactic, and move the devices every few days so the invaders don’t become accustomed to them.

Try the Radio Trick

Leave a radio playing all night near your fruit trees as the fruit ripens if the noise won’t disturb your neighbors. The sound can deter raccoons. Those thieves scavenge at night and are large and bold enough to harm a dog. So using a radio is a better option than risking your pet as a fruit tree guard. Because electricity and moisture don’t mix, and because electrical cords pose a tripping hazard, play it safe by using a battery-operated radio enclosed in a plastic bag.

Apply Barrier Protection

Bird netting is fruit trees’ best defense against birds. Use plastic mesh that has 1/4- or 1/2-inch-diameter holes. Although squirrels can gnaw through bird netting, it offers some protection against them, too. Leaving corn or nuts out for squirrels while the trees’ fruit ripens may distract them from the trees. For maximum protection, erect a wooden frame — four legs with crossbars connecting the legs at their tops — around each fruit tree, and lay bird netting over each frame to keep birds from pecking the outer fruit. Bird netting is reusable.

Tree Infestations With Webs

Tree Infestations With Webs

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Web-producing pest infestations are an unsightly problem for trees. Webs in trees are caused by caterpillars or mites that spin silken structures on the underside of tree leaves, as well as in and around tree branches. While this problem is generally more of an aesthetic concern, it also poses a health risk depending on the type of infestation. Pests that produce webs have the ability to defoliate and weaken trees, thereby increasing their vulnerability to other pest and disease invasions.

Spider Mite Infestation

Spider mites are eight-legged arachnids that spin fine, silk-like webs. Commonly affecting fruit trees, these pests infest trees in colonies, with hundreds of mites per colony. They are difficult to see with the naked eye and are usually identified by the webs they spin on the underside of leaves.

In addition to leaving a web calling card, spider mites also remove vital nutrients from the leaves through feeding, which leads to discoloration and leaf loss. Heavy infestations lead to defoliation and eventually impacts fruit production. Spider mites are more likely in warm, dry dusty conditions. In Mediterranean climates, spider mites have the ability to reproduce throughout the year.

Fall Webworm Infestations

The fall webworm lays its eggs on the leaves of deciduous trees. As many as 1,500 larvae hatch during the summer and begin feeding on leaves, spinning and encasing themselves in web-like structures called «tents.» As the fall webworm moves and continues to feed, the tents increase in size, causing an unsightly problem. Some tents cover entire branches.

The mature fall webworm caterpillar is approximately 1 inch long with fine, gray-orange hair covering a yellow or greenish striped body. The most common trees affected include birch, maple, mulberry, willow, walnut, crabapple and chokecherry. Fall webworms pose more of an aesthetic problem than a health risk for landscape trees.

Eastern Tent Caterpillars

Also affecting deciduous trees, the Eastern tent caterpillar prefers fruit trees, trees in the rose family, as well as ornamental trees as a host. Hatching by the hundreds in the early spring, it spins web-like tents in the forking sections of branches and twigs. The caterpillars inhabit these tents at night, and on rainy or cloudy days, emerging on sunny days to feed on tree leaves.

Leaf loss and defoliation is imminent, as this infestation takes over the tree. Trees infested with Eastern tent caterpillars are more likely to suffer invasion from other pests and diseases due to loss of vigor. The Eastern tent caterpillar is approximately 2 1/2 inches long with black and white stripes, light blue spots and fine hairs covering its body.

Treatment and Control

It is important to treat pest infestations as soon as you notice web-like structures on your tree. Delaying treatment allows time for the infestation to worsen, or the pest to mature, making it harder to control. Carefully remove the tents from leaves and branches. Use an insecticidal oil or soap to smother the remaining caterpillars or mites on the tree.

Remember that chemical insecticides, while effective, weaken the tree, making it more vulnerable to other pests and diseases. Additionally, chemical insecticides often deter helpful predators that control mite and caterpillar populations.


This page with picture and clear descriptions will help you identify the common pests and diseases although if you want advice on how to prevent them in the first place then the page here has more specific information on preventative measures.

The article below lists pests and diseases which affect the leaves, branches, fruit, blossom and the roots.



Adult aphids on a leaf


Infected leaves may be slightly smaller than normal and may be distorted. It can spread to fruit and even twigs and branches. It first becomes noticeable when young leaves emerge in spring.

Leaves affected by Powdery Mildew


Leaf affected by Apple Scab


Winter Moth Caterpillar hanging by a thread




The only permanent solution is to destroy the tree. The bacteria will remain in the soil for two three more years.

Apple tree stem affected by Galls


Apple tree stem affected by Woolly Aphid



There will be a tunnel in the fruit of varying length which is brown in appearance and filled with excrement from the caterpillar. This damage has been caused by the caterpillar stage of the Codling Moth. Click here for our detailed page on identifying and treating this pest.

Apple affected by Codling Moth


Apple affected by Bitter Pit


Apple affected by Scab


Blossom Wilt affects fruit trees including apples, pears, plums and cherries. It is a fungal disease (Monilinia laxa and Monilinia fructigena) which has the following symptoms:

  • Blossoms wilt then shrivel up and become dried out.
  • Leaves near the blossoms (on the fruiting spurs) also turn brown and shrivel up.

  • If conditions are damp, the affected leaves will have small, light brown, fungal raised areas on them.
  • If any fruit manages to survive it will turn brown and rot.

  • Damage by Blossom Wilt

    There are no chemical controls available to UK gardeners to control this fungal infection.

    Non-chemical control is based on pruning off any damaged blossoms including the fruiting spur they are on. Burn them, do not put them on the compost heap. Do the same with any fallen leaves. The idea is to minimise the spread of the spores and hopefully prevent them over-wintering and re-infecting the tree the next year.


    The red eggs are from the European Red Mite. Because I have never encountered them personally I can’t really offer advice as to how to control them. However I do know that they are eggs which will hatch out in spring and become tiny red mites.

    These will damage the leaves of your apple tree. I would certainly scrape the eggs off immediately before they hatch and take a close look around the tree for more of them. When the eggs hatch they loose their colour so this will give you an idea of the scale of the problem this year.

    To the best of my knowledge the European Red Mite is not connected with the more common Red Spider Mite. More information can be found on the link here.


    We have moved the Apple Tree pests and diseases comments and questions section to its own page which can be visited by clicking here. On that page you can view all the previously asked questions / answers / comments and also ask any new questions of your own.

    The questions and answers page contains a large amount of additional information about apple tree problems.

    Organic Treatment for Apple Tree Diseases

    Organic Treatment for Apple Tree Diseases

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    Crisp, juicy apples take time to mature and a lot of tending to, from their soil to the tips of their branches. For apples to be labeled «organic,» they must grow without any interference from chemical treatments.

    Growing a crop of organic apples starts with pathogen-free soil and continues over the life of the trees. They require proper sanitation and constant grooming and maintenance.

    Benefits of Growing Organic Apples

    Apples are a rich source of polyphenols and other important nutrients. A medium apple contains 4 grams of fiber and 14 percent of vitamin C. They provide a good dose of manganese, copper, and a host of vitamins from A, E, B1, B2 and B6.

    Before you plan to grow an apple tree or rows of trees, have the soil checked. A good foundation will ensure a healthy, towering specimen with bright, full blossoms and plenty of round fruit.

    Choose trees that are disease resistant and prime for your area’s weather and climate.

    Best Organic Options for Controlling Tree Diseases

    You have a few methods to beat back difficult diseases that take over apple trees. Two main organic farming techniques are:

      Sprays – Serious diseases such as fire blight and apple scab that can take down healthy apple trees quickly include dormant oil sprays, such as a liquid copper soap or Bordeaux mixture. Many of these sprays can take out other diseases that creep along unnoticed until it is too late. They won’t hurt the tree when done correctly at the right time within the growing season.


    Before planting a single tree or a crop of young apple trees, allow the sun to bake the soil and kill off lethal or soil-borne pathogens. The temperature needs to hover around 100 degrees Fahrenheit at minimum to let the solar solution work. Cover the soil with sheets of plastic and allow the sun to bake the ground for 2 to 4 weeks before you plan to plant.

    Soil Considerations for Organic Apples

    Apple trees can succumb to many diseases, one of which is sick soil syndrome. This is one of the most common diseases that affect new apple trees.

    Sick soil is considered a replant disease. It varies by region and can include nematodes and fungal pathogens that live in the soil.

    Identifying Diseases

    To successfully confront what is harming the fruit in the apple tree, you need to identify the specific disease. Apples can appear damaged by disease when in fact they may be getting damaged by hungry birds or bugs attacking the ripening fruit.

    Typically, a disease will begin on branches or leaves before spreading to blossoms and fruit. Regular maintenance, pruning and simply observing the fruit producing trees progress, particularly during growing season, can help to fight apple tree diseases before they get out of hand.

    Before you invest in creating or buying organic sprays and disease controls, thoroughly investigate the cause behind the problem. When you know what is causing the pitting, discoloration or damaged appearance, then you have a better chance of getting rid of it. Apple tree diseases can be hard to identify, so do your research before you create a plan of attack.

    Apple Scab Disease

    This disease can overtake both the branches and fruit of the tree. Apple trees have what looks like warts or brown bumps on the leaves and fruit, which is more than likely due to this common fungus. Areas that contend with bouts of high humidity tend to fall prey to apple scab disease.

    The fungal disease will show up as pale yellow or brownish-green spots on the upper surface of the leaves or dark, velvety spots on the underside of the withering leaf. Infected leaves will drop in early summer while the fruit begins to show signs of the apple scab’s progression. The scabby spots will bloom all over the fruit, causing it to crack and therefore invite bugs and other problems that can affect the tree’s overall health.

    To treat apple scab, rake under the trees regularly and destroy the infected leaves that hold the fungal spores. This will halt the progression of the disease and prevent it from carrying on the wind to other healthy trees or reoccurring the following spring. Liquid copper soap can be sprayed on the tree to prevent the disease before it starts; follow up with a second spraying a week later.

    Powdery Mildew Disease

    This is a common problem for many plants as well as apple trees. It can significantly decrease the number of flowers that bud on a tree; therefore, it will decrease the yield of apples at the end of the growing season. It can cause stunted growth and blemished fruit later in the growing season.

    On the fruit, powdery mildew looks like a soft, velvety covering along the leaves and branches. It isn’t choosy about which apple tree variety it attacks, although some types of apple trees are more susceptible to this disease than others.

    How to Beat Back Black Rot

    This difficult disease can appear in one of three ways on apple trees. These include:

    • Black rot limb canker – If you notice small depressions on the limbs of the tree, it is more than likely caused by this disease. It will grow until the bark begins to peel away.
    • Black fruit rot – You’ll see this at the blossom end of the fruit, which will turn brown and spread quickly until it consumes the entire globe. It doesn’t turn soft as the fruit turns from brown to black.
    • Frogeye leaf spot – When the bright blossoms on the apple tree begin to fall, this ugly disease will begin to raise its ugly head. It shows up on the leaves of the tree as small gray or light brown spots with a tinge of purple around the edges.

    The best way to treat black rot is to remove any fallen leaves and fruit that have been affected, cut back bark and cankers, and keep the area under the tree as clean as possible. Use a copper-based spray or lime sulfur to further control the spread of black rot.

    Apple Rusts to Repel

    Rusts appears as yellow-orange spots on the leaves, branches and down to the fruit of the apple tree. It begins as small pocks of brown spots with a ring of orange tinge that grows to take over the entire leaf or clusters. This makes it look like rust hanging from the bright green canopy of the otherwise healthy apple tree.

    Three forms of rust fungus attack apple trees. These include:

    • Cedar-apple rust
    • Cedar-hawthorn rust
    • Cedar-quince rust

    Rusts can be controlled by removing the affected branches about 4 to 6 inches below the last affected area. Treat the tree in spring to get ahead of an infection if the tree suffered the previous year.

    Cutting Out Collar Rot

    This ring around the robust apple tree is not a rosy thing to discover. If you find this disease creeping around your fruit tree, then you need to take action quickly. It can take down a healthy tree in as little as one season.

    Collar rot will cause stunted or delayed growth in the branches and buds of the tree. The leaves that protect the fruit will turn yellow and begin to drop before a canker will appear at the base of the tree. Once the canker begins to form, it will girdle the tree and kill it off completely.

    Use an organic systemic fungicide in the surrounding soil. Remove all branches that have any sign of the disease. After raking up all the leaves from the ground, make sure to discard all of the affected trimmings and piles so that the airborne fungus doesn’t move on to other healthy trees.

    Fending Off Fire Blight

    This is one of the most devastating diseases that can hit an apple tree and take it down quickly. Fire blight begins small and takes over every part of a healthy tree. The leaves and branches can look scorched as the disease progresses.

    Fire blight begins at the tips of the branches of the apple tree and travels down the stems. It affects the leaves, blossoms and branches. It’s a bacterial disease that begins with discolored and depressed areas along the bark and branches as the branches are dying off.

    At the first sign of fire blight, use a liquid copper soap at .5 to 2.0 ounces per gallon of water, depending on the size of the tree. Repeat this ever three to five days until the petals fall.

    Treating Fungal Diseases

    • In general, if you have found one of the common fungal diseases on the leaves and fruits of the apple trees, then there are a few steps and organic fungicides that can control the problem.
    • Destroy fallen leaves and rake under the tree regularly to reduce the fungal spores’ ability to spread in the air or into the soil.
    • Water in the early morning or evening hours so the leaves don’t stay wet long.
    • Spread a layer of compost 3 to 6 inches under the tree but not close to the trunk to tamp down the fungi’s ability to spread.
    • Use an organic fungicide such as liquid copper soap two weeks before the growing season and follow up with another treatment a week later as a preventative measure.

    If it’s a serious problem, apply an earth-friendly systemic fungicide to the soil to prevent fungus from growing as well as to stop fungal issues from beginning in apple trees.

    Disinfect the pruning shears that you use with a solution of 10 percent bleach and water or alcohol and water as you move across the tree to ensure you don’t inadvertently spread the fungus.

    Disease-Resistant Varieties of Apple Trees

    Planting apple trees that are disease-resistant can be a first line of defense to prevent diseases from attacking your apple tree. Apple tree varieties that are resistant to attacks include these cultivars: ‘freedom,’ ‘Jonafree,’ ‘Liberty,’ ‘Gold Rush,’ ‘Enterprise,’ ‘Cortland,’ ‘Redfree’ and ‘Pristine.’

    Protect Apple Trees From Pests

    Aside from fungal issues that cause diseases, pests can spread problems quickly over a single tree or throughout an entire orchard of healthy fruit producers. There are a few maintenance procedures to follow during the apple tree’s growing season to keep disease-spreading bugs at bay. Before new leaves emerge in spring, spray the trees with a nontoxic horticultural oil that will smother the dormant insects along with their clusters of minuscule eggs.

    Around early- to mid-summer is prime bug-breading season. This is also the best time to control the insects with organic insecticides to stop them from mating and laying eggs on or near the budding fruit. Pests that attack apple trees and damage fruit and leaves include the codling moth, maggot flies and plum curculio.

    When Do You Spray Apple Trees and With What Chemicals?

    There are two main reasons to develop a spray routine for your apple tree: disease and insects. Some of the sprays you use are preventative, while others are meant for immediate control.

    Types of Sprays

    Fungicide sprays control the many warm-weather diseases of the apple tree. Horticultural oil controls insects such as scale. Apple maggot is controlled with lime-sulfur. Insecticide sprays will be needed for other insects.


    Spray the apple tree with horticultural oil while dormant, then again when the leaves are 1/2 inch and again right before the tree blooms, when the small buds begin to turn pink. Apple maggot control begins before the tree produces foliage in the spring with a lime-sulfur spray. To control the many other insects that attack apple trees, use an insecticide when the blossoms start to drop and then three more times, at two-week intervals. To control summer diseases, spray the fungicide in early June and then again every 14 days through the middle of August.


    Carefully calibrate your sprayer in accordance with the product’s manufacturer instructions. Make sure the entire tree is covered with the spray material. Many fungicides and insecticides have been listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as possible human carcinogens, so wear protective clothing during application and shower after you are finished.

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