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13 Apple Tree Pests: How to Get Rid of and Prevent Them on Apple Trees

Few things are more discouraging than seeing your apples destroyed by apple tree pests. Unfortunately, these tiny insects and grubs don’t go away on their own.

An apple showing signs of worm damage; worms are common apple tree pests.

With a little know-how and a watchful eye, however, you can stop these pests in their tracks and allow your delicious apples to thrive again. Keep reading to learn more about the various types of apple tree pests and how to get rid of them!


1. San Jose Scale

The San Jose scale is one of the most common apple tree pests. These miniature, armored bugs like to feed on bark sap—often leaving trails of sticky wax in their wake.

White scale insects.

How to Spot a San Joe Scale Infestation

Despite their size, San Jose scale insects are fairly easy to spot. You’ll find that their tiny white bodies stand out against the backdrop of fruit, foliage, and branches. They can also cause apples and stems to appear deformed.

How to Get Rid of San Jose Scale

Because the female San Jose scale insect reproduces at a rapid pace—up to 400 new larvae in just six weeks—it’s critical that you address an infestation as soon as you spot it. Apply a 2% horticultural oil or insecticide to your apple tree branches, leaves, and trunks.


2. Thrips

Multiple species of thrips feed on apple trees, including pear thrips and Western flower thrips. These slender, winged insects grow up to 1/8-inch long and may resemble miniature crickets or fleas when fully mature. Adult bodies are typically brown or black, while nymphs often have a more translucent appearance.

Thrips.

How to Spot a Thrip Infestation

Like many other apple tree pests, thrips will puncture your apple trees and suck their contents. Beyond fruit and stem deformities, a thrip infestation is often identified by the white scarring that develops across the affected fruit and leaves.

How to Get Rid of Thrips

If you’re dealing with a mild thrip infestation, start by setting up sticky traps among your apple trees. For a more severe thrip infestation, use a natural spray, horticultural oil, or horticultural soap.


3. Borers

A variety of borers prey on apple trees that are stressed from drought—the most common type being the flatheaded borer. This small, brown-and-white beetle spawns wormlike larvae that can terrorize apple trees from the inside.

A flatheaded borer.

How to Spot a Borer Infestation

Borer infestations are especially difficult to identify, largely because most damage occurs inside the apple trees. Inspect your trees for tiny holes, dead tree limbs, and slow plant growth.

How to Get Rid of Borers

Because borers do most of their damage internally, prevention is key. Naturally, these apple tree pests are attracted to weak trees, so make sure your trees are properly hydrated, fertilized, and pruned. Severely infested trees will need to be removed so that surrounding trees aren’t impacted.


4. Plum Curculio

Despite its name, the plum curculio targets more than just plums. This long-snouted, black-and-orange weevil causes damage to apple trees by making incisions in the fruit and laying eggs underneath the skin.

A plum curculio.

How to Spot a Plum Curculio Infestation

While not many larvae are able to survive while your apples are growing, the adult form of plum curculio is very destructive. Fruit scarring, brown scabs, and premature fruit drop are a few of most common signs of a plum curculio infestation.

How to Get Rid of Plum Curculio

To prevent overwintering adults from attacking your apple trees, apply an insecticide during the early spring. Spray again after bloom. If you spot any scarred or fallen fruit, be sure to dispose of it.


5. Mites

There are a few different species of mites that are common apple tree pests—the two-spotted spider mite, blister mite, and European red mite, to name a few.  These microscopic arachnids typically travel in large hordes, gnawing at your apple tree leaves and removing their contents.

Red spider mites.

How to Spot a Mite Infestation

Because mites are hardly visible, it can be difficult to catch them in the act. They do, however, leave trails of silked webbing and red blisters. Check your apple tree leaves regularly for damage.

How to Get Rid of Mites

For mild mite infestations, simply spray your apple trees down with water. For more severe infestations, apply a horticultural spray or insecticidal soap. These apple tree pests also have many natural predators; be wary of chemical insecticides that might inadvertently kill off any beneficial insects.


6. Leafrollers

The filbert, fruittree, obliquebanded, and pandemis leafrollers are species of small worms that gravitate towards apple trees. These yellow and green caterpillars will suck the sap from your leaves and then feed on the foliage.

A leafroller worm.

How to Spot a Leafroller Infestation

The most common sign of a leafroller infestation is, of course, rolled leaves. These cocoons are often woven together with silk webbing—making the leafrollers themselves very difficult to spot. Keep an eye out for curled leaves, dead leaves, and fruit scarring.

How to Get Rid of Leafrollers

These apple tree pests are attracted to weeds, so keep the areas around your apple trees tidy. Severe infestations may also be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis. Keep in mind, however, that precise application is needed once the leafrollers have already wrapped themselves in leaves.


7. Green Fruitworms

Much like leafrollers, fruitworms are green grubs that feed on not only apple trees but also plum, pear, and cherry trees. These small caterpillars overwinter and emerge in the springtime—munching on your apple tree leaves and fruit.

A green worm.

How to Spot a Green Fruitworm Infestation

While green fruitworms blend in with their environments, they are also larger than most apple tree pests—making them a little easier to spot. Other common signs of infestations include chewed leaves, as well as scarred and fallen fruit.

How to Get Rid of Green Fruitworms

It’s worth noting that green fruitworms pose a very minimal threat to your apple trees compared to other apple tree pests. To keep them at bay, however, you can handpick them or shake your leaves until they fall. You may also apply bacillus thuringiensis to your trees.


8. Codling Moths

Codling moths present one of the largest threats to your apple trees, as the adult moth form and larvae caterpillar stage are equally destructive. Each season, up to three generations of these apple tree pests may cycle through your garden.

An adult codling moth.

How to Spot a Codling Moth Infestation

As codling moths overwinter, they lay eggs around your fruit. These caterpillars will then burrow into the fruit, making them nearly impossible to spot. As they forge tunnels and fill them with frass, the fruit will most likely scar before ultimately dying and falling.

How to Get Rid of Codling Moths

A comprehensive approach is needed to get rid of these apple tree pests. In addition to frequent pruning and bagging, you will need to apply an insecticidal spray multiple times during the growing season. Be sure to quickly remove any infested or fallen fruit.


9. Apple Maggots

These yellow, translucent grubs are known to attack apple trees, as well as most popular fruit trees. Like many other apple tree pests, the adult form—the common fruit fly—pierces the skin of the apple and hatches maggots underneath the surface.

An adult apple maggot fly.
An adult apple maggot fly

How to Spot an Apple Maggot Infestation

As larvae tunnel towards the core, they will suck the nutrients from the fruit— giving the fruit a bruised or scarred appearance. After enduring significant damage, the apples will eventually die and fall.

How to Get Rid of Apple Maggots

To prevent these apple tree pests from wreaking havoc on your fruit, spray an insecticide during early spring. If you’re dealing with adult fruit flies, there are a variety of fly traps you can set up around your apple trees. Chemical control may also be needed.


10. Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles are found in gardens and orchards throughout the eastern United States, particularly during the hot summer months. These tiny, green apple tree pests have pairs of metallic wings that allow them to flutter from one tree to the next.

A Japanese beetle.

How to Spot a Japanese Beetle Infestation

Typically, Japanese beetles prefer to feed on the leaves of your apple trees. For this reason, infestations are most easily identified by skeletonized leaves and heavily damaged tissue.

How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles

In terms of prevention, netting can help keep Japanese beetles away. What’s more, these apple tree pests are large enough to be handpicked from your trees. Avoid most commercial insecticides, as they can cause these bugs to populate even faster.


11. Stink Bugs

While you may occasionally spot these shield-shaped bugs around the house, they are also common apple tree pests. Although they may appear harmless, they like to feast on the sap from your fruit, buds, and leaves.

A stinkbug.

How to Spot a Stink Bug Infestation

At roughly 1/2-inch long, the stink bug is an easy pest to spot. What’s more, the bacterial diseases that these bugs release can cause various physiological deformities to develop in your apple fruit—including putting and cat-facing injuries at either end.

How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs

As weeds provide a habitat for overwintering stink bugs, be sure to keep the areas around your apple trees clear. For small infestations, you can pick these apple tree pests by hand. Otherwise, apply an insecticidal soap to your trees.


12. Aphids

The woolly aphid and the green apple aphid are two of the more common species you might encounter. These tiny apple tree pests spread rapidly and form clusters on stems and leaves. As they suck the juices from your apple trees, they will leave sticky residue behind.

Green aphids.

How to Spot an Aphid Infestation

Because aphids form woolly clusters on your apple trees, infestations are easy to spot. The honeydew that aphids produce can also cause black sooty mold to develop. What’s more, aphid infestations often cause apple leaves to roll up and dry out.

How to Get Rid of Aphids

Naturally, aphids have a handful of predators—including lady bugs, lace wings, and certain beetles. You can also prune back limbs that have been infested or use horticultural oil sprays to help control large aphid populations.


13. Leafhoppers

Leafhoppers are slender, winged apple tree pests that—as their name suggests—hop from leaf to leaf. These tiny insects grow up to 15mm long and enjoy sucking the nutrients from apple tree leaves.

A greenish-white leafhopper.

How to Spot a Leafhoppers Infestation

As leafhoppers travel from tree to tree and suck sap from the leaves, those leaves will appear stippled or mottled—giving them a speckled, white appearance. Of course, affected leaves will eventually shrivel up and die.

How to Get Rid of Leafhoppers

Applying insecticidal soaps can help control nymphs. Once the leafhopper matures, however, there are very few effective solutions. Encouraging parasitic wasps—one of the leafhopper’s natural predators—can help curb large infestations.


Wrapping Up Apple Tree Pests

Ready to wave goodbye to apple tree pests once and for all? Employ a few of these tactics today and watch your apples flourish as a result.

Hands holding apples.

Excited for more apple content? Visit my apple trees page to learn more about apple planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, and more!