Are Russet apples more bug resistant?

We keep it organic in my yard (wife health history). It is hard to get together all the info for a good organic program that works. I thought I had followed the instructions on this forum last year but had a total loss.

Next year I will protect some with ziplock bags. A forum member posted great info with pictures a while back. I will also do the Home orchard society footie soaked with Surround. But I can’t do every fruit with one of these so will continue to try to control organically.

So back to the main point. Do russetted apples have thick skin from early on that would help with pest control? I noticed that my friends Asian Pears had almost no bug damage and they have heavy skin. So perhaps a page in the playbook by adding some russet apples to my franken trees.

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An interesting thing my friend did was carved pumpkins and watermelons etc with designs while they were still growing. The fruits obviously had russet designs. Similarly if you wanted to toughen the skins of apples I suspect you could roll a spur etc over them to cause russeting when the fruit was small. I base that on my apples that have rubbed against branches etc when they were growing that developed russet marks. So don’t feel you need to change variety to accomplish that goal.

Russets do seem somewhat more bug-resistant. In particular the highly russeted ones like Keener Seedling and Hooples Antique Gold do better than average by quite a bit. I had a bad codling moth year this last year and found half or so of those two varieties got attacked which is unusual. I think the bugs had more vigor than usual due to all the great weather they got.

Along with russet apples go with later-ripening ones. They are more hard when the bugs are active, and by the time they start to soften the bugs are out of business. Hubbardston Nonesuch does well for me, along with Suncrisp, Mutsu, and Black Limbertwig. Make sure your season is long enough for these guys. I have been switching my apples over to more and more late ones due to the easier growing.

Pears generally are more dense than apples, in particular for curculio, so generally will fare better (except for stinkbugs which prefer pears by far to apples).

On a different topic, what spray program are you using, and is it curculio, moths, or apple maggot that is causing you the most problems? If its curculio, work on your Surround coating in those post-bloom weeks. If its moths, stock up on spinosad and codling moth granulosis and hit them often; throw in some Bt for good measure. I also use codling moth disruption lures but they are hard to find. This next year I am also using nematodes for control of all these pests. If properly applied in spring and fall I feel they should reduce the curculio population by 2/3rds.

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Ziplock bags are time consuming but they have mostly kept the bug bites off my fruit. As I’m sure you already know PC will make several scars on the pears and apples while they are small if left unprotected. I’m thinking of using surround next spring at least long enough to spread out the bagging task. Good luck with yours, Bill

I took some notes on how badly each of my apples got hit by bugs this year. I absolutely love their flavor, but the russeted ones were among the most damaged. Ashmead’s Kernel was hit pretty bad, with Egremont Russet also getting bit quite a bit (not quite as much as AK). Red Boskoop, with only a partial russet, was one of the worst.

Among the least impacted are a bunch of hard apples, like Scarlet O’Hara, Crimson Crisp, and Goldrush. A note on the flavor of SO and CC- timing is very important for both of those. For CC, I picked some early which were battery acid sharp in flavor. I avoided it for quite a while, then picked some very late and they were bland and boring (at about the same brix, maybe 14-15). For SO, they were great off the tree, but the one I kept for a bit over 1.5 months (picked ~9/19, eaten around 11/10) was incredibly boring (mild), though it held up from a crunch standpoint.

All the Kazhakstan apples did even better, almost shockingly well to my eye, though I need a few more years of data to make any blanket declaration about them. The trade-off seems to be that they aren’t that tasty, ranging from bland/boring to mushy (and often small). The best were comparable to grocery store apples. I’m still hopeful about them, as the sample was pretty small (1-3 apples per type, 4-5 variety), so I may not have picked all of them at optimal ripeness. I’ve also grafted a 6th variety, so there is still more left to learn. If nothing else, I should breed them with Goldrush.

One thing that highlights the small sample size for me is that my Liberty was very little affected by bugs. But several other posters (including Alan) consider it a bug-magnet.

Bob, for me the highly russeted ones showed some difference but I don’t know if there is much difference on the other russets. Roxbury and Golden Russet are not strongly russeted and have not shown much if any resistance for me. American Golden Russet on the other hand did well; it is fully russeted with that rough russet like on Hooples and Keener. I haven’t fruited significant Ashmeads to notice the pattern there but its not strongly russeted. Egremont I fruited quite a few years ago and vaguely recall it did OK with the bugs (but not the rot).

I agree hardness is a factor in bug damage. Many of the hard apples are also late apples.

By “strongly russeted”, do you mean 100% coverage, or the depth of the russet (thick vs thin). I don’t remember how thick the russet was, but my AK were completely covered in russet. It was the 2nd year bearing (4th year in ground) for the tree and it was up to ~30 apples yield.

I’ve had the same problem- lots of rots on it. In fact, this spring I grafted over the top tier of branches with a bunch of the ARS varieties.

My Roxbury runted out and I tried (without success) to get it restarted this year by completely thinning it (even the flowers). This fall I gave up on it reaching the size I thought it would and transplanted it to a much tighter location (4’ spacing with narrow rows vs 6-7’ spacing and a wide row). Maybe I’ll graft a bit of it onto the ER and see how it does. The few apples I got in past years were only partially russeted.

My Golden Russet (American?) was fully russeted, but I don’t remember how it did bug-wise. There were only a few and I must have left it out of my notes.

Hudson’s Golden Gem seems like a codling moth magnet for me.

Hudson’t Golden Gem and Golden Russet are huge codling magnets here. Korean Giant pear, with its thick russet is even more so, getting worse and worse over the years to where it is almost worthless when it was originally a variety that bore perfect fruit with no spray at all here.

It really takes years to figure out the relative resistance to pests of any variety, but with the susceptibility of these heavily russetted varieties it seems it isn’t the russet repelling CM. New pests can arrive at any time.

Birds and wasps also seem to be attracted to the low acid quality of some russet types.

There is an orchard I manage now with two partially harvested, fully mature Golden Russet trees and two Goldrush trees growing close to each other. Most of the Goldrush apples are still pristine while the Russets are pecked with holes and rotting on the trees.

In my nursery, Goldrush, Pink Lady and Arkansas Black are the most productive with no spray and they are all excellent apples. They are close enough to my established coddling magnets to indicate resistance to this scourge as well as plum curculio.

One thing all russets are resistant to is summer fungus.


My Liberty gets hit hard by codling moth, my major pest bugaboo. Yellow Delicious on the same tree will be ignored. So I’m going to guess that your Liberty sample was an outlier. I hope not!

I think there’s been some discussion here of fruit color and codling moth attraction, but I haven’t searched for it. IRRC yellow apples were generally thought to be freer of them.

This year PC damage was at a minimum in the northeast- it was the rare year where I saw wild trees along the roadside with heavy crops of sound apples. I think this may happen about 1 year in 10 in the northeast. Liberty is usually also a PC magnet in my experience, but it sure can produce beautiful apples without fungicide. It would be a good choice for an organic Surround based program if you like the apples.

To add to this topic here are a few that according to my logs did well on bugs/disease this last year that I didn’t mention above. Note that PC was not light for me in this past year. It was about average. But the moths were really bad.

Ingrid Marie - this is a sour Cox child, if you like sour this is a good one. It has rough skin but not russeted. I got very little bug damage of either kind on it.

Fall Russet - this one I didn’t get many on but there was little damage on the few I got.

Lamb Abbey Pearmain - these little guys looked near-perfect. Flesh is hard, maybe that helped.

Cherryville Black - did well. Small. Has the rough skin like Ingrid Marie.

Adams Pearmain - didn’t have many fruits but all came through cleanly.

thanks for all the input guys. I’ll drop the idea of russet. couple notes. Surround is tricky to use as it seems you blanket the leaves around the fruit so they are painted white, but the surround mostly runs off of the fruit. I assume this is why you are supposed to hit it 3 days in a row to start with. when looked at in total it may be less labor to bag apples then spray surround all those times. Apple maggot is what I think is doing the most damage. But codling moth and PC are well represented also.

You don’t need to spray three times. Just put in a bigger concentration the first time or two. I use three cups per gallon. Aim more at the fruitlets with your sprayer, its not hard with practice. I usually do 5 or 6 sprays total all summer on my apples, and I am including other things along with the Surround for diseases, spinosad, etc so there are probably only three extra sprays where I would have not been spraying had I not needed to put Surround down. Bagging is faster up to about 100 apples I would say.

Hi. Russets tend do vary in their susceptiblity to pests. Hudson’s Golden Gem,and Roxburry Russet tens to get more coddling moth and apple maggot, whereas Brown and Egremont Russets see less. In general, the harder, denser apples will do better.

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