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Don't puzzle any longer about the origin of maggots that spoil your appetite for juicy sour and sweet cherries. This guide explains how nasty worms get into cherries.

Harmful organism cherry fruit fly

The mastermind behind maggot-infested cherries is the European cherry fruit fly (Rhagoletis cerasi) from the fruit fly family (Tephritidae). The fly is considered the most significant pest in the cultivation of cultivated cherries because it misuses the fruit as a rearing station for its offspring. The following appearance makes the cherry fruit fly unmistakable:

  • Body markings: shiny black, light yellow, trapezoidal shield on the back
  • Wings: clear with dark transverse bands
  • Eyes: green compound eyes
  • Body length: 3.5 to 5 mm
  • Maggots: creamy white up to 6mm long
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The cherry fruit fly is native to Europe and widespread. The dreaded fruit fly species has specialized in infesting sour and sweet cherries as well as morello cherries. In the absence of favored cultivated cherries, the pests target other fruit trees. These include honeysuckle (Lonicera), bird cherry (Prunus) and snowberry (Symphoricarpos) with all the varieties that have emerged from them.

Tip: Strategically placed protective nets prevent cunning cherry fruit flies from laying eggs that turn into nasty worms. Cover the tree disc from the end of March/beginning of April. This means that flies that have overwintered in the ground cannot fly out. Netting of the crown from May fends off approaching female cherry fruit flies.

vicious circle with announcement

In mid-May, flocks of freshly hatched cherry fruit flies fly out of the ground. There they spent the winter at a depth of 3 to 5 centimeters under the protection of their pupae. The insects fly unerringly to suitable larval food plants and settle there. In the first 10 to 14 days, the flies first devote themselves to a maturation feed in order to finally strengthen themselves for the upcoming activities. To do this, the pests sit on the leaves and first fruits. On warm spring days, attentive hobby gardeners can watch while hordes of hungry cherry fruit flies feast on the escaping plant sap.

Following the preparation phase, the fatal process begins, as a result of which the evil worms get into the cherries. Mating females wait patiently for the ripening fruits to change color from green to yellow or light red and sunny, warm conditions.

  • Egg-laying: individually directly under the rind of a cherry
  • Maggots hatch: within 5 to 8 days
  • first activity: piercing the fruit to the core
  • Feeding activity: for 30 days, preferably on the flesh around the stone

The big eating inside the cherries lasts until the worms are fully grown. In the course of this feeding activity, however, the fruits become rotten and fall half-ripe to the ground. If a fruit mummy gets stuck on the tree, the full-fed maggot abseils down a spinning thread. In no time at all, the larvae bury themselves in the ground, where they pupate and overwinter. A ground depth of an average of 3 centimeters is sufficient because the stable pupae protect the rabble from the bitter frost. When the temperatures rise next spring, a new vicious circle begins with the hatching.

Notice: Did you know that with early varieties of the cherry fruit fly, you're throwing a spanner in the works? Premium varieties such as "Kassin's early heart cherry", "Red Maikirsche" or "Burlat" have long since passed the critical color change when the egg-packed females are looking for a suitable place to lay their eggs.

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