What happened to my apples?

Discussion in 'Edible Gardening' started by Aldo, Jul 10, 2024.

  1. Aldo

    Aldo Super Gardener

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    I have been away from the forum for a long time, so in first place, hi everybody!

    I have a little puzzle which I hope somebody here can help me solving.

    There is an apple tree in the back of my garden.
    Last year, around this period of the month, all of sudden all my apples disappeared.
    As in vanished, no leftovers, pips or else on the ground, and just a few left hanging.
    I was so confused frankly, but having no clue, I swallowed my disappointment and tried to forget about it.

    It worked, and this year I had entirely forgot about it all.
    So, a few days ago, on the 6th of July, I was checking the fruits, 60 or so (it's a small tree) and wondering what I could do with them once fully ripe. Tarts, canning some, usual stuff.

    upload_2024-7-10_21-46-2.png

    Then we had several days of continuous rain, and only today, on the 10th, I managed to spend a few hours in the garden to check on my plants.
    And, guess what..
    All apples are again gone...

    Quite similar to the previous year, but this time there are a few signs.
    A few apples are left on the lower branches.
    Branches have been broken quite high up.

    upload_2024-7-10_21-57-14.png

    One apple was left hanging by a tiny sliver of bark.
    upload_2024-7-10_21-57-44.png

    This time a few half eaten apples were on the ground, but otherwise it is just like the last year, most have been taken away.

    upload_2024-7-10_22-1-21.png

    Six survived, so I wrapped them in bags which I use to protect the grapes (another big target, doves love them.

    upload_2024-7-10_22-2-37.png

    Hopefully it will be enough to dissuade further attacks, even if, well, it is not exactly a victory..

    upload_2024-7-10_22-3-32.png

    So, my question is, what happened?

    Doves are the only large birds visiting the garden, and quite a pain at times, but I cannot imagine them breaking branches and removing all fruits.

    Which leaves the grey squirrel. They are a massive pain, and there are several, forever digging pots, eating strawberries and so forth.
    I think they have no local predators. Incontinent cats are very fond of the garden, but they are also victims of the obesity epidemic, so their contribution to defence is to crawl there and collapse on my garden furniture, from where they eye the squirrels with longing, while presumably mulling on ancestral memories of feline hunters, chasing cans of squirrels.

    So, the canandian pests go unchallenged.
    But, is it reasonable to assume that it was them?
    Are they known for cleverly and methodically gnawing at branches so to let the fruit fall, so they can steal it all?
    I never heard of that, but frankly I do not know what else to think.
    Again, I think over 50 apples have vanished entirely, that seems very methodical.
    If we are still here next year, I will put a camera I guess.

    Any advice?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Tidemark

    Tidemark Gardener

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    I feel your pain.

    Six of my apple trees have been denuded of fruit despite my covering the branches with bags etc. The only trees that haven’t been touched (yet) are the cookers.

    Squirrels.
     
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    • Aldo

      Aldo Super Gardener

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      So it is them..
      So sad.
      I cannot imagine solutions though.
      Some friends back in Italy covers their fruit trees with netting, to keep birds away, but I suspect it would not work against squirrels?
      And it would make for a pretty awful view, becasue the garden is small and the tree is front and center.

      A canadian lady here on the forum once kidly explained her solution.
      It involved a porch with a view on the garden, a comfortable chair, an airgun and an excellent aim :D
      It might not even be legal here, but I suppose it is not illegal to fantasize about that occasionally..
       
    • infradig

      infradig Gardener

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      • Aldo

        Aldo Super Gardener

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        Thanks, that is a good point.
        I am in London.
        Parakeets occasionally show in the garden, in large groups as per their habit, and then leave all together.
        Your article is very interesting and shows that they eat fruits.
        However, I would expect them to leave lots of half eaten fruits on the ground and on the tree, and it sounds strange that they would break the branches, becasue they probably feel safer eating directly on top of the tree.
        All is possible, but at this point I think the squirrels are the most likely culprits, becasue they store food, which would explain why there is nothing left.
         
      • pete

        pete Growing a bit of this and a bit of that....

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        The chewed branches suggests squirrels to me.
        Not seen it on my apples but in early spring I noticed they were chewing through the new shoots on trees and leaving them hanging, mostly horse chestnut and in the park walnut trees.

        They seemed to attack one tree leaving others untouched.
         
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        • Jiffy

          Jiffy The Match is on Fire

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          I've seen squirrels here eating the ones that have dropped
           
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          • Goldenlily26

            Goldenlily26 Super Gardener

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            I had a similar experience a few years ago. One day my apple tree was loaded, next day not a single apple to be seen.
            I suspected the "pain in the a+++e" twins next door.
            I mentioned my problem to their mother, suggesting someone had come in and scrumped the apples or deer had eaten them although there was no sign of hoof prints. She told me she had asked the twins if they had done it and she believed them when they said no. Ha!
            It has never happened again.
             
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            • Aldo

              Aldo Super Gardener

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              Thanks Pete.
              The fact that they would focus on a single tree is interesting.
              It might be because when they act in groups, one seems to always act as a lookout, so perhaps it is safer for them to 'work' on a single tree rather than dispersing.
              Or perhaps something else.

              I think part of the problem is that the back of the garden is adjacent to the railway, so lots of tall trees where they presumably nested. They have a pretty safe route to squirrel the apples away, and a fence to the side which runs all the way to the forested area.
              Maybe I could try clearing as much as possible, to turn it into a less ideal location.
               
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              • DiggersJo

                DiggersJo Gardener

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                We have 4 trees stripped of apples this year and we've actually watched the vermin snapping them off and eating them. This has happened the last two years, we suspect due to conditions they are desperate e.g. oak or beech late etc. However they have left evidence with numerous apple bits left.
                 
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                • pete

                  pete Growing a bit of this and a bit of that....

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                  I also wonder if different groups, say of squirrels, learn different things, kind of handed down through the generations.

                  So in some areas maybe squirrels haven't learned to take apples, in others they have.
                   
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