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in Problem solving
Tree in general looks quite healthy and has apples on, but lots of smallish patches of fungus on the bark. This feels slightly soapy to the touch - any ideas? There don't seem to be any insects/larva in the mould at all.
Any help greatly appreciated - the apple tree is the only thing from the original garden that I am desperate to keep ....
Despite the fact you haven't found any insects (they may have moved on up the tree to the young shoots by now, as is their modus operandi), I'm fairly sure this is apple woolly aphid, a very common but not too serious pest of apple trees. You can brush them off with a stiff brush, but if they have already moved to the tips of the branches, that won't do much and you may need to spray.
RHS advice on control:
From the pics it looks like woolly aphids. They are well hidden in the waxy cotton wool type coating which is very effective at protecting them from insecticides.
Google the term for some pictures. If it is what you have I suggest an afternoon with a bucket of soapy water and a nail brush scrubbing them off. You probably won't get them all (esp if it's a big tree) but you can control them in this way & they shouldn't affect the harvest too much. Many gardeners just try to keep these under control rather than full eradication.
Oops sorry Bob - your post sneaked in whilst I was writing - glad we agree...
Thank you both so much; scrubbing brush it is. I was having nightmares along the honey fungus line (I looked that up first and was relieved that it's entirely different). Only the lower branches seem affected so far, so fingers crossed. Thank you again - Sara
Well, I have scrubbed and it must have been mere chance that the first bit of gunge that I rubbed between my fingers was aphid free, because the others were absolutely full of nasties (reddish brown when suitably pulverised). There were some leaves which had gone very curly, and on close inspection these had hundreds and hundreds of beige rice grain sized blobs. I picked these leaves off and drowned them in soapy water.
I think the tree must have been affected by these things (or something else?) in previous years, because there are a lot of scarred bumps/galls on the old wood - do these things overwinter in their old hunting grounds ready to pop back later? Obviously we are going to keep a close eye on the tree now, so thank you both.
Bob - I have just gone back to the advice link you gave me again, and answered my own question about overwintering in the scars. What the link doesn't specify is should I therefore spray the whole thing in early spring or do I have to wait until the aphids come out and start their dirty work again?
Hi Sara, Best to avoid spraying at all if you can as it will kill the good bugs as well as the bad. The trick is to catch them early - as soon as you see a bit of the white stuff appearing next spring, get the scrubbing brush out! If it's a really bad infestation then spraying about the beginning of June would probably be best. You can also consider using a Winter tree wash when the tree is dormant which will kill the overwintering ones. That is less damaging to the environment than spraying when in leaf.
With any luck we got it before too much harm was done - I think there were probably a lot of weak spots in the bark because we stripped the most unbelievable amount of ivy off the tree and pruned it for the first time in years. The previous occupants had actually wired the ivy to the tree (many years ago, I suspect) and there were quite deep lesions in the bark. Fingers crossed for recovery and we will be inspecting every morning for any new bugs. Thanks for all your help - Sara