Cross Dressing Fruit and Frustrated Apple Maggots

One of my readers, Robin, left this comment on the October Garden Tour post, where I showed my espaliered apple tree full of apples wrapped in pantyhose footies:

I’m really curious about the cross dressing apples as well. I must’ve missed the post that explained it. Why the sexy legwear? And how big were they when you first dressed them? I imagine they needed to be pollinated and grow a little first.


That description - cross dressing apple - made me laugh because, well, it’s hilarious. But also I think I’d assign a female gender to all fruit by default. Apples are a giant ovary, after all. (Botanists, you may now quibble over how much of an apple is technically an ovary – I think I’ve made my point.) Since panty hose are traditionally worn by the ovary-bearing gender, I think apples have all the right in the world to wear them. And even without tradition – hey, I’m from Seattle – we’re pretty casual about pantyhose and gender roles around here.

Anyway, there is a very good reason my apples are wearing pantyhose. The footies, applied when the apples are small and ready to be thinned – about the size of a dime – keep apple maggots and coddling moth larva out of the apples. The footies work just like any physical barrier method – the apple maggot fly and coddling moth aren’t able to lay their eggs on the apple when it’s covered in pantyhose. No egg = no pest damage. No pests = really nice apples.

This is the first year I’ve tried this method of pest control and it works. We didn’t spray our apples at all or do anything beyond the the pantyhose – no sticky traps, no pheromone disruption, nothing – and most of our apples were perfect.

The downside is it took just shy of forever to apply the footies to all the apples on the topmost branches of my espalier. I think I did about half the central branches and just gave up on the lowermost branches. It may have gone faster if I had done it without a baby on my back, but I kinda doubt it – it’s just a super tedious process.

Apples and Asian Pears

If you have small trees or espaliers, and have a kinda laid-back, zen approach to time spent in the garden, the footies are a fantastic way to organically prevent pests from destroying your apple crop. If you managed a larger orchard, there is no way you could time-effectively use footies for pest control.

More info on using pantyhose footies for maggot and coddling moth control, including detailed instructions on when and how to apply the footies, is found at the Seattle Tree Fruit Society’s excellent website.

Is this a technique you have used? Would you try it?

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Comments

  1. Cool idea?! How many pairs of pantihose did you go through in cross dressing the apples?

  2. Dani – I did neglect to mention that, didn't I? The footies are sold specifically for this purpose online at at my local nurseries. They sell a big bag of 500 or so for about $20.

  3. Great tip, I like how those yummy looking apples turned out, despite all the work! I'll keep this in mind down the road as I planted my first apple tree this fall.

  4. Ha! I love using these. We just harvested all of our apples and only a very small percentage of them had damage (I admit I waited too long to put the stockings on). I think I did a post called The Barrier Method – or Getting Ready for a Night Out.

  5. I was going to use them this year and bought them ahead of time so I'd be prepared because I'd read about it and it sounded great. Then the darn apple trees made not one apple! According to the owner, no one has done anything with them for years and she's not sure if they ever produce now or not. I've fertilized them well this year and will be ready to try again next year.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think you would encourage much gardening if you had your own show – the Comedy Garden Hour. Yep.

    brenda from arkansas

  7. Hello! I'm chuckling at this just like I do at most of your posts. (And Homebrew Hubby is a riot.)

    I live in Alameda, CA and I too cover my apples. Coddling moths were damaging 60-70% of my apples before I started 3 years ago. That has been hugely reduced. And it would be reduced even more, if I would cover all the apples when they were actually quarter-sized. But you are correct in surmising that it goes no faster sans baby. It really.takes.forever! But there is a huge crop of perfect apples on the Braeburn, so worth it.

    Birgitt Evans

  8. Now I know why! I should've thought…of course the pantyhose were on the appropriate gender.
    Thanks for the mention! I only recently got up the guts to comment but I've been reading long enough my office-mate no longer wonders why I start snorting and snickering while supposedly working. Thanks for both the informative and hilarious posts!

  9. Hi, I just used the hosiery for the first time this year. I also posted very thorough photos and directions for anyone who wants to give bagging a try. The directions are on my website at the link shown here
    http://californiamediterraneandiet.com/2012/05/29/all-the-best-dressed-apples-are-wearing-pantyhose-this-year/
    Glad to hear they worked out for you. I have tried the other bags in the past but I think the nylons have a lot of features that make them preferable. We will see…

  10. Betsy True says:

    I learned from a local extension agent that I can spray with Surround, which is an inert kaolin suspension at petal drop, then bag my apples when they’re about the size of my thumbnail. I never succeed in getting them on that early, but I’ve had very good luck with this. Sometimes I’ll spray again with the Surround (it’s safe, inert, even edible) and it seems to help by itself without the bags. It does take quite a lot of fussy time to do the bagging, but then I’ve been having small crops, so …not that long. Spraying any chemicals is not an option in my yard with the bees, plus I don’t trust my memory to do it correctly if I did. I need something very forgiving. The only issue I’ve had is sooty mold, which is cosmetic anyway.

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