Forget all that sentimental nonsense about Squirrel Nutkins, Cooing Doves and other Pterodactyls, Mr. fox, Bambi, and Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter Rabbit!!! Harden your heart and be like Mr. Macgregor, if you want to have anything left after that lot have had their fill!! I know that some of the animal and bird lovers will be upset, but I am not in the business of growing fruit and vegetables to feed the birds and animals! If you want to feed them, that is your prerogative! Remember that there is plenty of other food readily available for them in the Summer and Autumn. And do not think that they will just take a little, as they will take the lot given half a chance! Even worse, they will even take fruit while it is still green and quite unripe, unless you have erected netting to stop them.
The smaller birds, such as Tits, can cause a lot of damage in the early Spring to the buds of gooseberries and Black currants. While you can wind black thread though the branches to deter them, it then gets in your way when you are trying to pick the fruit. A better solution if you have problems in the Spring, is to cover the bushes with plastic netting, which will also protect the fruit later on. See my suggestions for the construction of a fruit cage. Remember to remove the plastic netting before snow falls in Winter, as the weight of wet snow lying on top of the netting, can break the netting as well as the fruit branches.
The bigger birds, such as Pigeons, Blackbirds, and Magpies, will not only strip the fruit from branches, but also break them with their weight. They can be thwarted by using plastic netting. Some people hang up old CD’s or construct scarecrows, but this does not seem to have much of a deterrent effect. A good solution is to group soft fruit plus cherries together, and construct a fruit cage to cover them all.
Grey Squirrels or tree rats, have become a very serious problem taking Strawberries, Cherries, and even Plums, Damsons and sweet corn. They will rip plastic netting to shreds to get at whatever they want. The Government has classified them as Vermin, and you are free to trap them. Trapping seems to be the most effective solution, though you will have to keep on trapping through the fruiting season, as new squirrel families will move back in to replace the ones you have just got rid of, such is the huge grey squirrel population explosion. You are not allowed to release them in another area. If you are squeamish about killing them, you could always try electronic squirrel repellers, though you will probably need the type of repellers that have variable frequencies. To date, I have not seen any reports that the electronic squirrel repellers are effective.
Red squirrels are fully protected by law and you must not touch them, but as they are unfortunately very few and far between, you are most unlikely even to see them, let alone to cause you any trouble.
Deer. They can cause a lot of damage to vegetation. You will require a 2 m high fence, to stop them jumping over the fence. Alternatively, you could try an electronic repeller with variable frequencies.
Foxes. Although they have their uses as they kill vermin such as mice, rats, rabbits and pigeons, they can cause damage by digging sets, lying around and damaging plants or burying food for eating later. The dog foxes also have a terrible smell. Try an electronic repeller with variable frequencies. Destroy any fox holes as soon as you see them appear on your allotment.
Rabbits. If you have rabbits in your area erect wire netting round your site and staple it to posts, making sure that the wire netting is extended and buried at least 30 cm deep, to try to stop them burrowing underneath it.
Mice and rats. Mice can be very destructive on fruit such as Strawberries, taking them just as they ripen. Keep putting out the mouse traps, but make sure that they are hidden from the bigger birds such as crows, as they will take away both trap and dead mouse. You can also use rat poison, but they may become resistant to it over time, and it is expensive. I have rarely seen rats on allotments, but make sure that you do not leave scraps of food around to attract them.
Greenfly, blackfly and caterpillars. Caterpillars can become a real nuisance and strip branches of leaves, thus affecting fruiting. You could try picking them off by hand, but in my experience, by the time you notice the problem, it is beyond that solution. In this situation, it is permissible to resort to a short term pesticide, such as one based on pyrethrum.
Slugs and Snails can also cause trouble, even up trees, especially in wet weather. Slugs will tend to damage soft fruit by leaving slimy trails on raspberries, while I have discovered that snails like to eat cherries! Keep an eye out for them in wet weather and kill them. You could also try pellets spread on the ground, or copper bands round tree trunks.
Wasps can be a real nuisance, damaging fruit such as cherries, blueberries, plums, pears, apples, raspberries, and even making it dangerous to pick the fruit. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have spotted a wasp just in time, as I was about to pick a plum! I have even had to pick redcurrants wearing rubber gloves!
At the start of the fruit picking season, check to see if you can see any wasp “bykes” (nests), on your own, or your neighbour’s property, (with permission) and destroy them with a wasp pesticide powder. Large wasps will probably have a hanging paper nest, perhaps in an outbuilding, while the smaller type of wasps may well have built an underground nest.
Hang up wasp traps, suitably baited with a fruit and sugar mixture.. You can make your own traps from glass bottles with a hole drilled in the lid, or re-use plastic containers modified after softening with hot water to form a wasp trap.
For plums , consider covering small trees with a cheap mosquito net or other fine netting, for the months that the fruit is finally ripening, and is particularly attractive to Wasps.
There are other pests which are particular to an individual fruit host, and which are described with the relevant host fruit.
PESTS & VERMIN ON FRUIT
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