One of the worst insect pest problems to overcome when growing rare fruit is the fruit fly.

I do not like poisons, but I know that sometimes poisons have to be used. Instead of persistent and destructive chemicals, which are usually overused and misused, there should be more use of natural predators and selective pesticides.

This is a method I use to defeat the fruit fly problem, without using pesticides. Once before I wrote that I used stockings to cover fruit to stop fruit fly stinging the fruit. I have to admit, that this method was not entirely successful, as when it rained, the stocking became wet and clung to the fruit, and the fruit was stung through the stocking.

"In Cebu, in Philippines, Mango Growers bag the fruit when they are about the size of a pullet egg or slightly larger using old newspapers. They do this to protect the fruit from insect bites, injuries due to abrasions as well as to provide the owner with a more reliable estimate of his harvest."

"Recent observations made in Cebu indicate that the fruit flies also lay their eggs even on the bagged fruits on the tree if the paper is wet or torn and on the fruits which are being sorted and piled on the ground after picking."
(Extracts from Mango Production in the Philippines.)

It was after reading these extracts that I decided to think of something else that I could use to cover the fruit. I decided on using my oId curtains, which are closely woven, stiff, strong nylon. I sewed up bags of different sizes and big enough that when I covered bunches of guavas and single abiu, the bags hung loosely around the fruit. The light material did not put any further weight on the branches, and the fruit did not sweat under this type of material. Using secateurs, I cut away some protruding branches when placing the bags over the fruit, then tied with a twine in a bow.

This time when it rained, the bags, being nylon, quickly dried, and the nylon did not cling to the fruit. Also I was able to see through the nylon bags to observe colouring up of the fruit, so I was able to tell when the fruit was ripe for picking. If I was unable to pick the fruit straight away, the ripe fruit sometimes fell off the branches and was caught in the bags without getting bruised. I must say a good crop of big, sting- and blemish-free guavas and abiu were harvested. They were delicious.

I saw a photo in another book, but cannot remember which one, where lychees were covered with bags. Perhaps, it would be a good idea if a manufacturer could make the bags on a commercial basis for the fruit growers, as making the bags takes time and effort.

In Tasmania, in the apple orchards, the men go right through the apple orchards about six weeks before harvest, thinning out the apples and cutting away leaves around the fruit to let in the sunlight so the apples will be bigger and of even colour. I think bagging the fruit would take about the same time. Bagging would only have to be done once. The time spent bagging the fruit might even be less than time spent spraying and chasing flying foxes and birds, as the bags protect the fruit from this problem also. The nylon bags, being strong, can also be reused.

It is better to bag the fruit. It is healthier and no harm to the environment. The cost of the bags and time spent bagging could be even less than cost of poisons, time spent spraying and loss of fruit to flying foxes and birds.

Christine Gray

DATE: September 1983, January 1994

* * * * * * * * * * * * *