After a week of rain, I took a stroll through the orchard to give it a check and see if the trees needed any spraying (we use a judicious bit of insecticidal soap to control aphids and a copper fungicide for rusts). And this is what I found:
On the ground under our apricot tree (the one we worked so, so hard to nurture through the spring freeze; the one that was loaded with tiny green apricots) are a pile of half-eaten apricots. This sin't just a June drop or wind damage. You can see the bite marks:
One apricot is left on the tree. The rest are gone.
Eaten by squirrels. This is my assumption, at least, after some internet research revealed just how much those horrifying tree rats like apricots.
And it's not just the apricots. The squirrels (or possibly birds, but this seems doubtful) ate every last nectarine, and all but two Granny Smith apples. So from four trees that were bearing their first fruit this season, we have three pieces of fruit left.
This is almost unspeakably depressing.
The only thing left to do is protect those two precious apricots and apples until they ripen. I've got lots of netting from earlier squirrel combat maneuvers, so here's our crop now:
The other thing is to learn our lesson and be better prepared next year. We are going to see how far the plastic, 3/4-inch netting gets us on our peach tree (which still has lots of fruit on it and seems so far undisturbed by the squirrels). I am thinking of tying a bit of colored yarn near the peaches to help keep track of what (if anything) gets eaten in the next few weeks. If things start to disappear, we'll have to see about getting some netting around that tree. That will be a ginormous pain in the ass, because that tree is pretty big.
If they can reach and/or chew through the netting, we may have to invest in a solution I saw online (although I can't seem to find the link now). This is a 6-foot chicken wire fence around each tree, with a netting roof stretched over the top. It is not at all attractive and is a fairly expensive infrastructure investment to do for each tree, so I'm hoping that the simple netting solution does the trick, at least for most of the fruit.
Failing that, Tiegan is planning to work on her archery at summer camp. Perhaps we can get both kids to sign up for rifle practice, too, and ask Santa for some BB guns.
I'm only sort of kidding about that.