Are yellowjackets and ants leaving holes in my apples?
I have been finding large holes eaten in my apples that are still on the tree. I have found yellowjackets and ants in the holes. I’m wondering if the yellowjackets are eating the holes and the ants move in for the sweetness. I know it’s too late to do anything this year, so I am looking to prevent the problem next year, maybe with some sort of sticky traps.
As picnickers and backyard cooks know, both yellowjackets and ants are attracted to sweet foods, and ripening apples can be a favorite. While yellowjackets will eat the fruit directly, as explained in this Penn State University article (geared toward commercial growers, but the underlying issue is the same, and you can compare the holes in your fruit to the images), the ants are making me think you may have an underlying or at least coterminous issue with aphids. Aphids leave behind a sticky sweet residue on the plant surface called honeydew and can attract both ants and wasps to feed on it. If you can’t find a yellowjacket nest, I would suggest hitting the trees and fruit with a strong blast of water from your garden hose, which will both dislodge aphids and clear away the honeydew. Normally, rain keeps such issues decently in check, but in such a dry summer we aren’t getting as much natural help as usual.
If you do find a yellowjacket nest, please refer to the Penn State resource above for some control suggestions. Barring that, I suspect getting a handle on the aphid/honeydew will mitigate both the wasps and ants.