How to stop earwigs eating all your apple blossoms...

17 October, 2015

Last year I had a terrible time with (what I am assuming was) earwigs eating all the apple blossoms on my apple trees. As such I had a pitiful harvest of only around 20 apples from my 60+ espaliered and free standing dwarf apple trees.

Something had to be done.

This year I was determined to prevent such a disaster from recurring. But how to stop the bastard bugs from eating the blossoms?

Solution: petroleum jelly.

When I applied this to the trees I didn't know if it would really work or not, but it appears to have done the trick as the apple blossoms are untouched.

So here is my method.

I pasted the apple tree trunks and espalier supports with a thick layer of petroleum jelly. This sticky barrier was aimed at preventing the earwigs from making their way up the tree trunks to the delicious blossoms. I needed something waterproof and robust as I wasn't going to be around for the next five weeks to reapply as needed.

I also applied the petroleum jelly to the supports so that all methods bug access were cut off.

When the blossoms are finished blooming I will remove the petroleum jelly barrier, as I'm not sure that its that healthy for the tree bark, though it doesn't seem to have caused any issues so far.

At the moment the apple blossoms are mostly at the just flowered, but not able to tell whether they have set fruit stage.

However there are some trees that are behind the eight ball and haven't yet flowered.

C'mon Pine Golden Pippin. Why so slow?

Luckily the Sundowner is ahead of the game, already showing good fruit set.

I'll probably need to thin these, but for now I'm enjoying the sight of multiple tiny apples forming.

Which is a welcome sight let me tell you. Fingers crossed for a bumper apple crop. Hahaha bugs, foiled you.


  1. Hi Bek, I'm really keen to see what your apples do this year (what yield you get), as I decided to plant my new apples as cordons after discovering your blog. Bit disheartened to learn earwigs eat the blossoms though, sigh. Two of mine have set fruit already but I've been advised to at least snip of the fruit at the tips because they should be putting their energy into growing. Did you take off any/all fruit in the first year? Cheers, Emily

    1. Hi Emily. So am I! I know the Sundowner has set a lot of fruit but the rest is all guess at this stage. I will be sure to post updates though.
      The earwig thing is strange, because other apples in other parts of the garden don't get so attacked. The only thing I can think of is that there isn't enough other food for them to eat in that space.
      I did take off some of the fruit on any tree that is heading into its first summer post planting. But I confess I usually leave 1 or 2 fruits (if more than that set) for a couple of reasons: 1 - I am selfish and want to get some fruit, and 2 - I think it might be good to help the tree to get into the reproductive cycle. But I am very conscious that it is an energy drain for the tree to try and produce fruit, so I am extra careful with feeding and watering to ensure the tree doesn't get stressed. But in a tree that is a couple of years planted, but fruiting for the first time I let it do its thing.
      I also thin fruit on mature trees, as otherwise I find they tend to be biennial, i.e. they fruit massively one year, then nothing the next. By thinning the fruit the tree doesn't get too exhausted and a yearly crop is more likely.

  2. I love that your fruit trees are competitive! there's always a strong one first out the gate, and then a slow-poke that takes its time ... but turns out to be pretty good!
    what an amazing trick of the petroleum jelly, and it lasted 5 weeks? wow. I hope it does what you need it to.

    1. Who knows, slow and steady may win the race :)
      Yes, it lasted really well. I'm not sure it stayed sticky the whole time, but it seems ok.