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Control cherry fruit fly: tips on how to successfully protect your cherry trees from pests.

The major pests of cherries are the European cherry fruit fly ( Rhagoletis cerasi ) and the American cherry fruit fly ( Rhagoletis cingulata ). For practical purposes, the two species can be considered together because life cycles and control are essentially identical, although the European cherry fruit fly hatches 10 to 14 days earlier (beginning in mid-May) than the American. Failure to adequately control these pests can result in severe crop losses because fruit fly larvae (maggots) are present in the cherries at harvest. Learn more about how to control cherry fruit fly and how to successfully protect your cherry trees from pests here.

Fighting cherry fruit fly in the ground – the maggots

The maggots in the cherries - fruit fly control

Cherry fruit flies spend about 10 months of the year as pupae in the soil under cherry trees and, depending on the species and soil temperatures, hatch as adults from mid-May through July. The adults (about 5 – 6 mm in size) feed and mate, but do not lay eggs for about 10 days. After the 10-day feeding and mating period, the flies begin to lay their eggs just below the skin of the fruit. One female can lay 50 to 250 eggs. The eggs hatch after 5 to 7 days and the maggots feed on the pulp of the cherry. When fully grown, the larvae leave the fruit, fall to the ground, and begin their 10-month pupation in the soil.

Symptoms of infestation

Fighting cherry fruit fly - tips and natural remedies

The larvae feed on the pulp inside the fruit, making the fruit unmarketable. There is no evidence of infestation on the outside of a fruit until the larvae hatch from the exit holes. Large populations can infest a high percentage of the fruit on a tree. Suspect cherries can be seen under the tree, but picking an infested cherry makes it easier to identify the pest.

Protect cherry trees from pests - What can you do?

A small portion of the cherry will begin to turn brown and shrivel. Tiny pinholes can be seen along the skin of the cherry, from which juice squirts out when pressed. The fruit rots from the inside and the cherry maggot, hatched from the laid eggs, appears. Late bearing cultivars are often more affected than early fruiting cultivars.

Remedies against cherry fruit fly

Yellow boards – cherry fruit fly control.

Use yellow boards to successfully control cherry fruit fly


Plates are useful for determining the first appearance of cherry fruit fly, especially on a regional basis. Trap results should not be relied upon to determine if control sprays are needed. Yellow boards are not very efficient for detecting fruit flies, especially when fly numbers are low. Hang the panels in an area where flies are most likely to be caught. More important than the number of yellow boards is to place them where there is known to be a high fruit fly population.

Use commercially available yellow boards that increase attractiveness with a fabric. Hang traps at eye level in exposed, sunny areas of trees by mid-May. To prevent litter from accumulating in the trap, remove all leaves and twigs within 40 cm of each trap. Check the panels daily until the first flies are caught.

How to control cherry fruit fly?

Uncontrolled outdoor sources are a common threat to most growers, so it’s important to monitor your nearest borders. This will ensure early detection of flies entering your garden and timely application of remedies to prevent establishment and spread .

Protect cherry trees from pests with mulch

Protect cherry trees from pests with mulch


Ground covers and mulch around the base of trees can prevent larvae from burrowing into the soil to complete their development to the pupal stage. Successful plant covers include grasses and other plants with extensive, dense root systems that physically impede fruit fly larvae. Garden fleeces and films can prevent larvae from burrowing and adults from hatching from pupae in the soil. Mulch made from other dense materials can also interfere with their life cycle.

Control cherry fruit fly: netting for the cherry tree.

How to fight cherry fruit fly - net for cherry tree

A fine net can be used in your garden to prevent fruit flies from landing on ripening cherries. You should stretch the netting over the smaller trees to wrap them and secure it with tape. For larger trees, you can wrap individual branches with the netting.

Remove fruit from the ground

Get rid of cherry fruit fly - tips

Maintaining a “clean” orchard where fruit fly populations are kept at low levels from one year to the next is important because high populations are more difficult to control, even with insecticides. In years when crops are not harvested or all fruit is not removed from trees, fruit fly populations can increase and cause greater pest pressure the following year. Therefore, it is important to remove fallen fruit from the ground as it may contain larvae. Also, remove any abandoned or wild cherry trees nearby.

Control cherry fruit fly – biologically.

Get rid of fruit fly biologically

Birds and rodents take a greater toll on fruit fly larvae, but they also generally consume the fruit and therefore are not considered beneficial. Chickens and other poultry have been shown to eat fruit fly larvae and pupae in the soil and may provide some benefit.

Cherry tree spraying for worms

Cherry tree spraying against worms

Insecticide sprays that target adults are the primary tactic for controlling this pest. However, first try to control these pests with natural means . Also, get good advice from your garden center if you do decide to use sprays.

Fruit fly larvae develop inside the fruit where they are protected from most insecticides. Studies on insecticide penetration into the fruit have shown that some of the insecticides can penetrate the skin and kill insect eggs and larvae in the fruit. The main goal of control is still to prevent females from laying eggs in the fruit.