How To Control Peach Tree Borers: The Bane of Peach Trees

When it comes to fruit trees, the peach tree stands out not just for its delicious produce, but also as a prime target for the destructive peachtree borer pest.

The damage to peach trees caused by this borer can significantly affect tree health and fruit yield.

To control peach tree borers, you must adopt a multipronged approach. This includes regular monitoring for signs of borer activity, using insecticides labeled for control of peachtree borer, and employing preventive measures. Pheromone traps can help in early detection and mating disruption.

In the following, we’ll explore all aspects of this peach tree pest, including its life cycle, identifying features, potential for damage, and prevention and management strategies.

Key Takeaways

  • Peach tree borers are destructive insect pests that damage peach trees by burrowing beneath the bark, feeding on the cambium, and leaving visible signs like oozing sap and frass.
  • To prevent peach tree borers, maintain overall tree health, apply protective barriers like tree wraps, use pheromone traps for early detection, and employ beneficial nematodes and parasitic wasps as biological control.
  • Effective control methods for peach tree borers include insecticides like pyrethroids and systemic agents and natural remedies such as neem oil, beneficial nematodes, and tree banding.
  • Timing for insecticide application is crucial with early-season treatments being most effective to control peach tree borers.

Peach tree borers are quite common, but they are far from the only issue that plagues peach trees. Learn about the common culprits of peach tree decline and what you should do in my detailed guide, Peach Tree Diseases, Pests and Problems.

Understanding Peach Tree Borers & Borer Damage

Peachtree borers, belonging to the Synanthedon genus, are a bane for peach trees and other stone fruit trees like plum, apricot, and nectarine.

They are notorious for the harm they cause, often working beneath the bark and compromising the tree’s ability to transport nutrients.

What Are Tree Borers?

Tree borers are a group of insect pests that lay their eggs on or inside the tree bark. Once the larvae hatch, they burrow or tunnel into the tree, feeding on its tissues and causing extensive damage.

They can be destructive insect pests of stone fruit trees.

These pests primarily target the tree trunk, the base of the tree, and even the tree’s roots, weakening the tree’s structural integrity and, in severe cases, leading to its death.

Two Types of Peach Tree Borers

The two primary culprits that attack peach trees are the greater peachtree borer (Synanthedon exitiosa) and the lesser peachtree borer (Synanthedon pictipes).

The greater peachtree borer is the more commonly recognized enemy of peach trees. It primarily targets the lower tree trunk and the base of the tree, causing significant borer damage.

This borer is particularly notorious for its attacks on young trees that are more vulnerable.

Evidence of peach damage from this borer includes oozing sap and frass (a mixture of wood and excrement) around the base.

The lesser peachtree borer is a borer moth that prefers attacking the upper trunk and branches, especially in older trees.

Its presence is indicated by oozing sap and visible borer tunneling higher up the tree.

Peach Tree Borer Identification

Identifying peach tree borer infestations early can make peach tree borer control more effective.

The adult peachtree borer is a clear-winged moth. The adult female peachtree borer is larger than the male, with a striking blue-black body and an orange band around the abdomen.

The adult male is smaller and more slender, possessing yellow bands on the abdomen.

An adult peachtree borer moth visiting flowers for nectar.

The adult lesser peach tree borer also has clear wings but has yellow bands on its body, distinguishing it from the greater peachtree borer.

Borer larvae, irrespective of their type, look similar in their early stages. They possess a brown head and a creamy, whitish body.

As they feed on the cambium layer beneath the bark, they cause visible damage.

Ooze mixed with frass will often seep out of the tree, especially near the soil line for the greater peachtree borer and higher up for the lesser one.

Male vs. Female Peach Tree Borers

It’s vital to distinguish between male and female peachtree borers for effective pest control.

The adult female peachtree borer is about an inch long, possessing a metallic blue-black body with that defining orange band around its abdomen.

She’s responsible for laying eggs on the tree bark. Upon hatching, the borer larvae then begin their destructive journey into the tree.

The adult male peachtree borer is slightly smaller and more slender. Its wings are clear, and it has several yellow bands on its abdomen.

Employing pheromone traps is an effective way to catch male borers, disrupting mating and reducing the borer population.

Peach Tree Borer Life Cycle

Understanding the life cycle of the peach tree borer is essential for effective borer control.

  1. The life cycle begins when female moths lay eggs on the tree bark during summer.
  2. Upon hatching, the larvae, or borers, start to feed on the bark, making their way deeper into the tree as they grow.
  3. These borer larvae primarily feed on the cambium layer beneath the bark, weakening the tree and causing visible borer damage.
  4. Throughout the winter, the peachtree borer overwinters in its larval stage, residing deep within the tree.
  5. As spring approaches, these larvae metamorphose into the pupal stage, awaiting transformation into adults.
  6. By early to mid-summer, adult peachtree borer moths emerge, starting the cycle anew.

Signs of Peach Tree Borer Activity

Detecting early signs of peach tree borer activity can prevent extensive damage to peach and other stone fruit trees.

The most glaring sign is a gummy, amber-colored ooze that often has bits of frass mixed in.

This ooze is a tree’s response to the feeding activity of borer larvae and is often seen around the base for greater peachtree borers or higher up for the lesser peach tree borer.

Another common indicator is the visible exit holes in the tree trunk or branches where adult borers have emerged.

These holes often have sap and frass around them.

Lastly, wilting or dying branches can be a result of borer activity as the feeding disrupts the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients.

Damage from a peach tree borer highlighted.

Damage Caused by Peach Tree Borers

Peachtree borers can inflict serious damage to peach trees, reducing their life span and productivity.

The borer larvae tunnel through the trunk and branches, interrupting the flow of sap.

This not only weakens the tree structurally but also makes it susceptible to other pests and diseases that can invade the weakened tree.

Most of the damage is done below the soil line or beneath the bark, making it a challenge to detect early on.

If left unchecked, an infestation can girdle young trees, essentially cutting off their nutrient supply and causing them to die.

In older trees, the damage can lead to a decline in health, reduced fruit production, and even death over time.

Tree Prognosis

Once a tree has been attacked by peach tree borers, its health prognosis largely depends on the extent of the damage and timely intervention.

Trees with minor infestations can recover if the borers are effectively controlled. However, trees with extensive damage, especially near the base of the trunk, may have a poor prognosis.

Regular inspections for signs of borer activity, combined with appropriate control methods, can drastically improve a tree’s chances of survival.

Recommendations from state university extension services can provide localized advice on prognosis and treatment options for affected trees.

How To Prevent Peach Tree Borers

Preventing peach tree borers from attacking in the first place is undoubtedly the best way to ensure the health and longevity of your peach and other stone fruit trees.

Here are some comprehensive steps and strategies:

1. Regular Tree Inspections

A significant step in preventing borer infestations is regularly inspecting your peach trees for signs of damage.

Check the tree trunk, especially around the base, for any oozing sap or frass. The early detection of these signs can enable swift interventions, nipping any potential infestations in the bud.

2. Maintain Tree Health

A strong, healthy tree is less appealing to peach tree borers and has a better chance of resisting an infestation.

Ensure that your trees receive adequate water, especially during dry periods.

Properly timed fertilization and avoiding injuries to the tree, such as from lawnmowers or other equipment, can keep them robust and less susceptible to pests.

3. Pheromone Traps

Using pheromone traps is an effective preventive measure. These traps contain synthetic chemicals that mimic the scent of female peachtree borers, attracting and capturing male borers.

By reducing the number of mating males, it limits the number of eggs laid on the tree, reducing future borer populations.

It’s also an excellent method of monitoring borer activity in your orchard. You can find them here.

4. Insecticide Applications

Spraying insecticides is a common and often effective strategy to combat peach tree borers. When it comes to these pests, timing is crucial:

Start spraying early in the season when the peach tree borer moths are active and laying eggs. This prevents the larvae from establishing themselves in the first place.

It’s crucial to focus on areas of the tree where borers are likely to lay their eggs. This includes the tree trunk, especially around the base of the tree and near the soil line.

Depending on the type of borer, you might also need to spray higher up on the tree.

Not all insecticides are effective against peach tree borers. Look for products specifically labeled for control of peachtree borers.

Pyrethroids are commonly used against borers, but always read and follow label instructions carefully.

Always wear protective gear when spraying insecticides. This includes gloves, eye protection, and long-sleeved clothing.

Ensure you keep children and pets away from treated areas until the insecticide has dried completely.

Consider using organic or less toxic insecticides if environmental impact is a concern.

Neem oil, for instance, has some repellent properties against borers, though it may need to be applied more frequently than chemical alternatives.

Depending on the insecticide’s residual effectiveness and the level of borer activity, multiple applications throughout the season might be necessary.

5. Protective Barriers

Applying a protective barrier around the base of the tree can deter female borers from laying eggs.

Wrapping the lower tree trunk with a commercial tree wrap or even a simple newspaper can be an effective deterrent.

This wrap should be placed in late spring and removed in winter to prevent any trapped moisture or other pests from causing damage.

6. Use of Beneficial Nematodes

Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that prey on various pests, including borer larvae.

By releasing these nematodes in the soil around the base of the tree, they can naturally reduce the borer population.

They attack the larvae, preventing them from maturing into adult borers, thus offering a natural remedy for tree borers.

7. Proper Pruning

It’s essential to prune any dead or infested branches from peach trees promptly. The lesser peach tree borer often infests injured or weak branches.

By promptly removing these, you reduce the sites available for egg-laying and subsequent infestation.

8. Avoid Late Season Fertilization

Fertilizing your peach trees late in the season can promote new growth. This tender new growth is particularly attractive to female peachtree borers looking to lay their eggs.

To prevent this, avoid late-season fertilization, ensuring that your tree goes into the colder months without any fresh, appealing growth.

How To Control Peach Tree Borers

Once peach tree borers have established themselves in your trees, swift and strategic intervention is critical to mitigate damage and restore tree health.

Identify and Confirm Infestation

Before jumping to treatment, ensure that you indeed have a peach tree borer problem:

Look for signs of damage to peach trees like oozing sap, frass, or sawdust-like material around the base of the tree or on the tree trunk. Borer tunneling beneath the bark is a telltale sign of their presence.

Occasionally, you might see the adult peach tree borer or its larvae.

Mechanical Control Methods

For low-level infestations or if you prefer a non-chemical approach:

  • Hand Removal: This is effective but labor-intensive. Probe infested areas with a thin wire to kill the borer larvae inside the tree bark. This method is most effective during winter when borers are less active but haven’t yet caused significant damage.
  • Tree Banding: Place a sticky band around the tree trunk during the borer’s flight season. This captures female moths before they can lay eggs.

Chemical Control Methods

  • Targeted Insecticides: Use insecticides specifically labeled for control of peachtree borer. Apply the insecticide around the base of the tree, focusing particularly near the soil line where the larvae enter the tree.
  • Soil Treatments: Some insecticides can be applied to the soil around the base of the tree. They’re absorbed by the roots and transported throughout the tree, killing borers feeding within.
  • Systemic Insecticides: These are absorbed by the tree and kill borers as they feed on the tree’s inner tissues. These can be highly effective but might have longer withholding periods if the tree is bearing fruit.

Biological Control Methods

  • Beneficial Nematodes: These microscopic worms prey on borer larvae. Applying them around the tree base can help control borer populations naturally.
  • Parasitic Wasps: These insects lay their eggs inside borer larvae. When the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae consume the borer from the inside out. Introducing these wasps can help control borer populations.

Follow-Up and Monitoring

After employing control methods, continue to monitor your peach trees for signs of borer activity. Regular inspections can catch any resurgence in activity early.

Use pheromone traps to monitor adult peachtree borer activity. They will give an indication of when borers are most active, signaling when control measures might be most effective.

Healthy trees can recover more quickly from borer damage and are less susceptible to future infestations.

Ensure your trees are well-watered, fertilized appropriately, and pruned of any damaged or infested branches.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Does Neem Oil Work on Peach Tree Borers? 

Neem oil is a natural insect repellent derived from the seeds of the neem tree.

While it has been utilized as a general-purpose pest control solution, its efficacy against peach tree borers specifically is varied.

Neem oil can deter adult peachtree borer moths from laying eggs on the tree. This preventive measure can reduce the number of larvae that might eventually burrow into the tree.

Neem oil might not be as effective in killing established borer larvae beneath the bark. The oil primarily works as a preventive measure rather than a curative one.

If using neem oil, it should be applied consistently and in conjunction with other control methods for best results.

When To Spray for Peach Tree Borers? 

Timing is critical when dealing with peach tree borers.

Start spraying early in the season when the adult peachtree borer moths are active and before they lay their eggs. This is often in late spring or early summer, depending on your region.

These can help indicate when the adult peachtree borers are active in your area. When trap catches increase, it’s a signal that it might be the right time to spray.

Depending on the product’s residual activity and the level of borer infestation, you might need to spray multiple times throughout the season.

Can You Save a Tree With Borers? 

The sooner you identify and control peach tree borers, the better the chances of saving the tree. Monitoring for signs of damage to peach trees, like oozing sap or frass, is critical.

Use a combination of mechanical, chemical, and biological control methods to tackle the infestation.

After treating for borers, focus on tree health. Provide adequate water, fertilize appropriately, and prune away damaged branches to support recovery.

What Is the Best Insecticide for Peach Tree Borers? 

There are several insecticides that are effective against peach tree borers:

  • Pyrethroids: These are often used against peach tree borers due to their efficacy. Products containing permethrin or bifenthrin can be particularly effective.
  • Systemic Insecticides: These are absorbed by the tree and can be effective against borers feeding inside. Imidacloprid is an example.
  • Safety and Labels: Always choose an insecticide labeled for control of peachtree borers. Read and follow label instructions, and ensure you adhere to any waiting periods if the tree is bearing fruit.

What Is a Natural Remedy for Tree Borers? 

Several natural remedies can deter or control peach tree borers:

  • Beneficial Nematodes: These microscopic worms can be introduced around the tree’s base to prey on borer larvae.
  • Parasitic Wasps: These can help reduce borer populations by laying their eggs inside borer larvae.
  • Tree Banding: Using sticky bands around the tree trunk during the borer’s flight season can trap female moths before they lay eggs.
  • Neem Oil: As a repellent, it can deter adult borers from laying eggs on the tree.

Closing Thoughts

Peach tree borers, both the greater peachtree borer and the lesser, pose a significant threat to peach and other stone fruit trees.

Through understanding, early detection, and the application of effective control methods, you can protect your trees from this destructive insect pest of peach and ensure a healthy, fruitful yield.

Eager to keep learning about how to care for peach trees? Gain insights and valuable tips in these articles: