This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Sir: In New-England there is no greater pest to the cultivator, than the Apple Tree Borer. In some parts it has destroyed whole orchards. Many persons, in fact most persons, fold their hands in despair, and let the trees die. I have done better by the help of the Horticulturist - having profited by the directions given by the Editor three or four years ago. These directions are the only ones that I have seen that strike directly at the root of the matter - that is to say, by preventing the Borer in a winged state, the last of May and the first of June, from depositing its eggs in the bark of the tree, and thereby laying the foundation of a new brood. The old mode of killing the borers, by pushing wires into their holes in the trunk of the tree, is good so far as it goes - but it only goes half way. Since, if you succeed in killing all the grubs in that tree, a fresh set may fly over from your neighbor's trees, as soon as the grubs hatch out, and lay their eggs in yours. The plan recommended by the Editor of the Horticulturist, does the whole business; as many new subscribers whose trees may be infected, have not that prescription at band.
I shall beg leave to repeat it.
First. Kill all the grubs in the trunk of the tree, by pushing a wire up the holes as far as possible. Then take a pail - fill it half full of thin soft-soap, and stir in enough tobacco water to make it two-thirds full. Having first scraped off any loose bark, next apply this tobacco and soap paint with a stiff brush, to every part of the trunk, and larger part of the limbs - putting it on especially thick at the "crotches," and the base of the trunk - the places where the borer likes best to deposit its eggs. If this is done early in May. I can answer from experience for its efficacy. No Borer will deposit her eggs in bark coated over in this way. All the merit of the prescription belongs to you the Editor,and not to your humble servant,A. R.C. Rhode-Island,April, 1862. [We may add to the foregoing, that the soap and tobacco mixture, painted over the trunks of other trees, as the ash, peach, etc, infected with Borers, is equally effectual. The main point is to get it on before the insect comes out in a winged state - and south of Baltimore that is usually before this time. North of that point, the early part of May will answer.
It is next to impossible to find the whereabouts of this destructive insect by inserting a wire into the tree, by reason of its tortuous track inside the bark. The worm does not go straight into the trunk from its entrance. Sometimes it will turn up, or down, and progressing half an inch or more, will turn and wind half way round it through the sap wood, and then work up or down again, as the case may be. There is no so effectual way as to take a sharp pointed jack-knife, and cut at once into the tree at its entrance, and follow the miscreant till you find him. It is sometimes a severe operation to the tree, I confess, but not fatal, and far better than to permit him to continue his ravages. This is an effectual cure. The soap and tobacco may reach him, or it may not. As a wash, however, it is good for the tree; and if it hit the grub it will destroy him. I have sometimes followed him with my knife, for an inch or two, through a compact mass of borings, which he had left in his rear, in which no wire could penetrate. In fact you can be sure of nothing, short of a thorough search with the knife.
A correspondent of the Rural New Yorker says, that he has prevented the attack of apple tree borers by putting a bushel of tan bark around the stem of each tree. The tan bark answers the double purpose of keeping out the borers and a mulch. No weeds grow through it, and the writer states that he has never known a tree to be attacked, with tan bark around it.