The woolly aphid thankfully is easy to spot due to the tell-tale cotton wool like deposits it secretes. The “wool” camouflages and protects the aphids inside the wool. Often the wool is mistaken for a fungal issue.
DAMAGE: During Spring woolly aphid tend to be visible on the bark at the base of branches. They will then move to feed on the sap of new, tender shoots. If left alone the aphid will multiply at an alarming rate and can cause damage, resulting in gall like swellings, which can then split creating an ideal entry point for canker and other infections.
TREATMENT: Wherever possible, completely remove the woolly deposits (and the aphid within) by gently scraping away. Environmental and bee- friendly products such as SB Invigorator can also be used. This is best applied early in the morning or after dusk. You will need to gently unfurl any curled leaves and drench the leaf.
ORGANIC CONTROLS: Ladybirds, lacewings, hoverflies and other insects can act as natural predators, alongside birds and spiders.
COMPANION PLANTING: Lacewings, hoverflies and ladybirds can be attracted by growing flowers such as Poached egg plant (Limnanthes), members of the allium family are useful to repel aphids. Marigolds, Coriander, Dill and Fennel also act as very good deterrents. Nasturtiums and Sunflowers on the other hand, attract the aphid, keeping them away from other fruit trees etc,. Just make sure you plant them in a different location!
HOW ARE DISEASES SPREAD?
Most fungal infections are carried by spores being blown, from one plant to another by the wind, or transmitted in water splashes. Bacterial infections are spread in the same way although insects can also carry them. Viruses are transmitted by sap-feeding insects, especially aphids.
Plants are most at risk when they have just been pruned or are damaged. It is imperative to prune at the correct time of the year – Winter season (when the tree is dormant (lost all of it’s leaves)) for fruits with a pip; apples, pears and quinces. Growing season (July/August even if fruit is on the tree) for stone fruits; apricots, cherries, gages, nectarines, peaches and plums.
Do not overcrowd trees
Make sure they are planted with sufficient space between.
Free-standing trees should not be planted near fences/walls/buildings etc.
Weed, water and feed your trees
Especially through dry spells. The healthier your tree is the more resistant to infection and disease it will be.
Before and after use, especially when pruning.
Dispose of infected matter
Clear all windfalls, pruning and any infected/diseased leaves. Burn or remove from site rather than composting.