Enjoying a couple of fruit trees in your backyard seems sensible — just walk out and pick your own fresh fruit. In addition to watering, thinning branches and picking, many folks don't realize it's a big responsibility to keep pests from invading your tree fruit.

Results of neglecting that part: pick an apple and you find apple maggots (larvae of a fruit fly) have invaded your fruit well ahead of you. With cherries, the main culprit is cherry fruit fly.

These pests aren't just repulsive as you take a bite, they're a menace to orchards and residents nearby.

Whom do you call if this describes you or a neighbor? The answer is the Chelan-Douglas Horticultural Pest and Disease Board, providing you live in either of these counties. The board's phone number is 667-6827 and its office is at 412 Washington St., Wenatchee.

Will Carpenter, director of the board says, "I definitely recommend calling us any time you know of a problem. Don't wait until next spring to report it."

Another alternative is to email him at will.carpenter@co.chelan.wa.us.

The board's busiest time is spring for cherries and late spring-early summer for apples. Pears have thicker skins so are less of a problem but still can harbor pests.

The longer neglected trees are left untended, the more pests are multiplying and invading neighbors' trees as well as nearby orchards.

"One apple tree can produce a ridiculous amount of codling moths. I have seen seven worms (codling moth larvae) in just a single apple," the Carpenter says.

He describes an East Wenatchee orchard infestation and said it was obvious the direction of invasion. Going house to house within a half mile of that area, they discovered seven residences with pest problem trees. He explains an infestation in an orchard points exactly in what direction the pests are coming from, although prevailing winds can also bring in pests.

Allowing pests to invade our area means crippling our agriculture industry and local economy. Overseas buyers simply won't buy such fruit.

When a report is called in, Carpenter or his assistant Jim Walters goes out and inspects the site to determine if pests are on the property. One or two seasonal employees are hired during their busiest time.

"Everyone has their own issues, and we talk with them and try to solve the problem in a way that works for everyone," explains Carpenter.

They offer WSU Extension spray schedules for those who choose to keep and manage their trees to prevent pests.

Another option is allowing the board to cut down the tree and apply an herbicide to the stump so it doesn't resprout, all free of charge. They can't afford to do this for a number of trees on one property though.

Sometimes in an old orchard, the owner limits sprays to save money or just isn't paying attention as pests become a problem.

They are following 270 cases right now, and most take a year of monitoring, but two years is not unusual. The board has the authority to prosecute those who refuse to work out a solution to their pest problem. Reporting an irresponsible neighbor can be made anonymously.

"Pests and diseases are not just limited to edible fruit varieties of trees, but include a lot of ornamental trees and shrubs as well," says Carpenter. "Vegetation ranging from crab apples, ornamental apples/cherries/pears, to even some smaller shrubs make it into our case list frequently. I have personally documented codling moth eating through several pea-sized fruit on a ornamental apple tree. They will burrow in one side and out the other side of the fruit, then on to the next piece in the small cluster. "

Carpenter has an associate of technical science degree in natural resources from Wenatchee Valley College and was hired in 2013. He grew up in Wenatchee and Okanogan. His grandparents owned an orchard in the Okanogan area, so he's in tune with our large fruit industry and how important it is to our economy.

 

A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in the At Home section. Mary Fran McClure is one of four columnists featured.