Cherry Fruitworm

2014 July 19

Our little sour cherry tree that we planted about four years ago[1] has finally started bearing significant enough amounts of fruit for us to actually harvest it. Unfortunately, this also means that there are enough cherries to attract the various fruit pests. When we picked the cherries in July of 2013, a large fraction (maybe half) had one of these burrowing around in the middle:

When they were taken out of the cherry, they had an obvious, caterpillar-type head, which means that they are not the maggots of the various species of cherry fruit flies.

Rather, they appear to be Cherry Fruitworms, Grapholita packardi (which apparently is sometimes also spelled “Grapholitha packardii“, just for the sake of confusion).

These are caterpillars of a little tortricid moth. They are apparently not to picky about their host plant, and will eat fruits from plants in the families Rosaceae[2] and Ericaceae[3], which between them cover pretty much every edible fruit-bearing plant that we can grow around here. Not to mention a lot of wild fruits, like hawthorns and the various kinds of wild cherries.

They didn’t make much of an obvious mark on the outside of the cherry, so the only way to tell they were there was to pit the cherry and see the caterpillar. The cherry flesh actually seemed to be OK around where the caterpillar was, but the immediate area around them was brown and contaminated with their “frass”. The fruit was still mostly edible, since the pitter usually cleared out the caterpillar and most of the frass along with the cherry pit. The cherries cooked up OK, but were probably not something one would want to eat raw.

[1] When our first cat died (at an unknown, but quite advanced, age of at least 18 or so), we buried her under this cherry tree. The tree is doing quite well, in spite of the soil it is planted in being one step shy of sandstone. We had to dig the hole with a spud and pick.

[2] Apples, pears, quinces, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, loquats, strawberries, and almonds, to name a few. Wait a minute. Strawberries? Strawberries are in the same family as apples? I did not know that.

[3] Cranberry, blueberry, and huckleberry, along with a bunch of ornamental plants like rhododendrons and azaleas. Not quite as many as in the Rosaceae, but it does seem to be most of the remaining fruits that will grow around here.

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