Aphid Update: Damson Saved, Plum Under Threat

At the end of May I reported on a nightmare aphid infestation that had completely taken over the young damson tree on our Plot #79 orchard. At the time the only action we could take was to completely defoliate the tree, cross our fingers and hope for the best.

I’m very happy to say that the results have been good and the damson has not only put on plenty of new leaf, but has developed lots of new stem growth as well. Here it was earlier today:

As you can see, much leafier than the last time we saw it. In fact, it was so leafy that I decided to give it a thorough summer pruning – the appropriate time to prune stone fruit trees, to lessen the risk of silver leaf disease infection – and took out a lot of the inward-growing branchlets, cutting most of the rest back to four or five leaf nodes, to hopefully try to encourage the development of fruiting spurs for next year.

However, that’s not the end of the aphid nightmare. The plum tree planted next to the damson has also been suffering from an infestation of what I think is probably mealy plum aphid or a near-relative. I tried my best to remove as many infested leaves as I could, but I clearly missed a few and they’ve been multiplying like crazy again:

They’re absolutely everywhere, and the tree is covered in flies, wasps and other insects feeding on their honeydew residue, as well as ladybirds and their larvae feeding on the aphids, but I don’t think there are enough of them to get the job done. And I found a couple of branches on the damson which had been re-infected by these little blighters whilst I was pruning…

I think drastic measures are going to be called for again. I’ll turn up on Saturday armed with a bottle of neem oil spray, but I suspect that won’t be enough, and another de-foliation will be necessary instead. Damn. And also: blast.

How about you? Have you conquered the aphid menace this year, or are they making an unwelcome resurgence? Let me know, via the comments.

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