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The Great Hedge Apple Insect Experiment


Normally, I avoid sequels.  I don’t want to know what happened after Rhett left Scarlet standing in the door with his famous line echoing in her mind.  I definitely didn’t want to see Rocky triumph more than once.  However, I must write a part two to the hedge apple saga.  If I don’t, that tale’s audience may enter the next bug cycle with unfounded hope.

Before I address the insect deterrent aspect of hedge apples, I need to tell you  why I found a million shreds of hedge apple under the big cedar tree. I watched long enough and caught the culprit at work.

My husband told me squirrels had done the deed, but I couldn’t imagine how such a little creature could wreak such havoc. (Silly me.  I am the one who lost a sweater and a pair of tennis shoes years ago to a mouse nest in a school closet.) He was right. Squirrels love hedge apples.

We put a few more ugly globes on the porch to tempt the guilty party and hid to watch. It took a day to catch the critter, but I saw a little squirrel lift and carry a hedge apple bigger than a softball in its mouth. Apparently, another squirrel observed this feat of strength and grabbed its own fruit to lug down the hill.

That explained how hedge apples moved from one locale to another.  After observing further, I saw how the apples turned to shreds. With a few quick shakes and shimmies, the squirrels efficiently and effectively tore their orbs into thousand microscopic pieces.  As they disassembled the globes, they flung chunks several feet in each direction. I’m guessing these rodents found only a portion of the Osage oranges edible. Once they found that tidbit, they tossed the waste aside.

So much for the mystery of the moved and shredded hedge apples. Now for the truth about this fruit as insect deterrent.  After studying the site that sold these as natural insect repellent, I placed several around the house in places we tend to find box elder beetles.  I even tucked a hedge apple in my closet for good measure.

The first hint I had about their lack of suitability as a solution to box elder bugs was the pungent odor that wafted out every time I opened the closet door. Remembering great inventors like Thomas Edison, I couldn’t give up too soon. 

While I gave those green orbs every opportunity to send the box elder bugs outside for a breath of fresh air, another infestation occurred in my bedroom closet.  Hedge apples are a fruit, right? Fruit flies like fruit, right? Fruit flies really like ripe fruit, right? Right. 

We went away for the weekend, and when I returned and began hanging clothing in my closet, I discovered  I’d collected a green brain imbedded with fruit fly larvae. My closet was full of fruit flies. This would have been grand had I been in high school and needed them for a genetics experiment in biology. However, this was decades too late. 

Fortunately, I hadn’t paid $1.50 a piece for my fly magnet.  Even more fortunate was the fact that only one hedge apple spawned a swarm of unruly fruit flies. Otherwise, I would have been slapping tiny pests for days. I will take box elder beetles any day over a fruit fly.

Be wary of products advertised on the Internet. When experimenting, select one small area as a test zone and prepare for unexpected consequences. I’m certain Edison made a few mistakes.I n fact, Edison said something resembling, I have not made a thousand mistakes inventing the light bulb.  I have merely found a thousand ways not to make a light bulb. Well, I’ve found another way not to deter insects.