This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
How got our curculio this heathenish name? Comes it of that wreck and waste marking alike the bivouac of this Little and the Grand Turk? Most likely it was hinted by that Moslem signet, the little crescent lip, gashed by his snout upon our fruit. It is there he nests the tiny worm that eats into its heart.
Not the plum alone suffers from this foe. The grape and the apricot, and many think the apple, pear and cherry show his marks. The question is, how to defend our fruits against his raids. Plainly, we must,fight the little rascal, by tactics and strategy fitted to his heathenish ways. His weakness then shall be our strength.
I have no faith in most of the "sure cures." Hens and hogs in the plum yard, traps and entanglements for his footsteps, he laughs to scorn. Stenches viler than Chinese stinkpots are his joy. Hunting him in the cool of the morning, about the time of the " early bird," while our little Turk naps late, under chips and stones and rubbish, is a waste of time and a delusion. Early risers are not very plenty. Besides, such fuss will only cut off some outlying posts of a foe, whose hosts swarm among our neighbors.
The truth is, appearances deceive us. A device this year seems to give a full crop, which the next don't work worth a cent. A few years since, a friend of mine thought he had saved his crop, by dusting sulphur on blossoms, leaves and fruit. He made sure, and went straight for that grand prize which somebody out West offered. But by the next year the little Turk had got a liking for sulphur, and did'nt care a snap for the cure. For reasons past finding out by our philosophy, one year, a tree matures a crop, every fruit on which the next, drops stung by the curculio. This season our trees may be loaded to breaking, while our neighbor's not a hundred yards off, cannot show a plum. Such results and their seeming cures and causes, are often illogi-cally linked. No remedy deserves our faith, which will not, year by year, fulfill with a crop the promise of the bloom.
Now the curculio can fly. Every remedy must count on this. If we kill them, our neighbors who don't, can furnish plenty of recruits. But our little Turk has a weak spot in his mental make-up. Like Major Bagstock, he thinks he is "cunning and deevlish sly." Besides he is more timid than a hare. He is a coward, and plays possum. That smart rap, by which Ellwanger & Barry, have for so many years saved their plums, startles him. At the first blow he gathers his feet and snout and body into a ball, at the next he tumbles to the ground for dead. There the wide inverted umbrella or a sheet, gathers him for a scald or a scorch, or some lively fowl devours him.
Now this timidity of the little Turk, and some observation of his ways and of some results, lead me to think, that a very slight jar or rap upon the tree, kept up through the season of fruiting, will put a stop to our curculio's work. For years my crop has never failed, nor do I have any stung fruit, on trees trained on my barn. Therein some years were stabled horses, etc. On others only emptiness, yet each year alike, they bore. Why this, unless " the rapping and the tapping " of the twigs, and the rustling of the leaves against the barn, startled the timid creatures with some sense of danger. You cannot of course train all plum trees on buildings, but you can run, from tree to tree, slight iron rods or stout wires fastened thereto, and by striking them on end with a steady and slight automatic blow, send through all the needed jar or shock. Some little wind-mill tapper, some strong coiled spring, or other slight propulsive force, perhaps would do the work. A trellis of iron posts and wires, vibrating under a gentle blow, would do well for the grape or the plum.
A few years since, some one took out a patent for doing this work by an automatic machine. Right away there came to him from far and near a demand therefor. He only thought of its use to save the plums. But to his great surprise, the loudest call came from Delaware, where the curculio sadly trespassed on the grapes. The pro-blem has been, to get a cheap machine, by wound up weight, or spring compressed, or other stored power, to run twelve hours; often and gently rapping on some pin or rod fastened to the trees. No cheap machine could be made, to give more than a gentle rap every few seconds through that time. The slight expenditure of power, in a smart rap, often repeated during twelve hours, counts up heavy in the pounds. The storing of the needed force would call for stronger and more costly and bulky machinery than would pay. If anybody can get up one cheap and durable, costing to buyers not more than $5, he had best hunt up the patentee; there is money in it, if not, as Col. Sellers has it, millions.
Meanwhile the plan of Ellwanger & Barry will hold the front as the best and cheapest remedy out.