The apple trees are loaded again this year.  Parker’s young apple tree is thriving, and its fruit is ready by July 4.  The apples from this tree may grow large and look beautiful, but there are only two uses:  Parker loved to eat them – old, freshly fallen or straight from the tree, and you can make very nice applesauce.  These apples are too tart for any other purpose, including pies.

A few days ago, I collected some small ones that were lying on the ground and carried those to the swing, where I sat in the shade while the girls munched on the apples.  Usually, I am concerned about what is in the apples, including seeds and worms, but that didn’t deter the girls.  This morning I checked the Japanese beetle traps, shook the beetles off the trees, then picked up a few more apples.  I rinsed those in the house, then cut out the cores and discarded the bad areas.  Damaged areas of the apples can have mycotoxins, present from fungal growth where bruising or other damage has occurred.  There was more waste than apple pieces, by the time I was finished.  My offerings were gently acknowledged, but after returning from taking care of the horses, I noticed that all pieces were neatly intact, but now brown, where the girls had been lying.  Perhaps the cows will enjoy those.  Perhaps the girls prefer their apples in the natural state.

Last year was the first year that the young trees had mature fruit.  This brought on the battle with birds and Japanese beetles.  The beetles demolished the tree leaves, and the birds spoiled the apples, sometimes with a single peck into the apple.  So, this year, we covered the trees in wildlife netting, which will allow the birds to reach some of the fruit near the net but will protect the rest.  We also put a plastic hawk on a nearby post, facing the apple trees.  The plastic hawk has discouraged most of the birds so far.  In fact, the only birds that are brave enough to test the hawk are the Mockingbirds.  A couple of Mourning Doves will perch along the fences but no longer come closer.  This deterrent will need to be moved as soon as the fruit has been harvested.  With a lot of recent rain, there are too many flies and mosquitoes.  We need the “good birds”, especially the ones who will eat Japanese beetles.  Mockingbirds are too aggressive to tolerate other Mockingbirds, so there aren’t enough of those to make a dent in the Japanese beetle population.

These beetles are a remarkable fiend.  Hundreds can load onto one small tree.  And, they must be the most sex-crazed insect on the planet!  Today, wherever you saw beetles, it was in the form of “doubles”.  This is, fortunately, a weakness that is easily exploited.  After shaking the trees to remove the beetles earlier in the morning, the trap was filled to overflowing within 20 minutes.  The pheromone lure seems irresistible.  All you need to do is put them into flight, so they migrate to the trap.  Greg may wonder what that large bag of clicking moving content is when he walks into the barn this evening.  Perhaps I’ll remember to give him advance notice, perhaps not.  We will definitely need trap refills.

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