Sugar_Apple_Mummification

Why are my Sugar Apples turning black?

Its June and your seeing the first baby fruits on your Sugar apple tree – suddenly as you check your sugar apples – oh no! They have turned black.

Frustrated and confused because how could one of your precious sugar apples rot when you were doing everything right?

Look no further – Here is why your sugar apples are turning black.

The Sugar Apple Turns Black Because Of The Annona Seed Borer a ‘Sugar Apple Pest’

The Annona Seed Borer or also known as the ‘Chalcid Wasp’ Is an Annona pest in Florida that burrows its way into Sugar Apples. Once they manage to infest the sugar apple they lay their eggs in the tiny seeds. This process creates a fungus in the sugar apple turning it black & hard. The process of the sugar apple turning black is known as ‘Mummification’.

The Annona Seed Borer will crawl out of the black sugar apple and attack other Sugar apples, so its important to take care of this problem in your garden to ensure the best sugar apple harvest.

In this video I explain why the sugar apple (annona squamosa) turns black on the tree before reaching full maturity (harvest).

The Sugar Apple Turns Black Because Of Too Many Sugar Apples on one tree

If you perform hand pollination on your tree and the tree is too small to hold many fruits – it will naturally turn some black so it can focus on a few.

This occurs more often in trees that are still young (3 or less years) that are over (artificially) pollinated.

How Can I prevent my Sugar Apples From Turning Black?

Enable to prevent your sugar apples from turning black you will need to follow the following steps

  1. Remove all Mummified Black sugar apples from the tree and the base of the tree. (This is very important to stop the cycle of the wasp)
  2. Cover your healthy sugar apples with a protective bag. We recommend these bags from amazon.
  3. Make sure to throw any black sugar apples far away from the tree.

Are there any Pesticides or Sprays I Should Use?

There is currently no-spray available on the market to combat the Annona seed borer (chalcid wasp). By removing black mummified sugar apples from your yard and bagging the fruit it provides excellent defense for your sugar apples.

How does the Annona Seed Borer (Chalcid Wasp) Look Like?

Below is an image from Annona Breeding Projects Instagram of the chalcid wasp.

The wasp itself is very small and has potential to pierce

How To Hand Pollinate Sugar Apple or Atemoya Flowers in Florida

If you are growing sugar apple (Annona squamosa) or atemoya in Florida you want to be able to maximize your chances of getting healthy, big, and delicious sugar apple fruit from your trees.

Since both the sugar apple and atemoya tree is capable of having both female and male sexual parts that mature at diffrent times of the day (known as ‘Dichogamy’), it is possible for gardeners to carry out artificial hand-pollination on sugar apple tree which almost increases the setting of fruit up to nearly 100%.

Lisa Atemoya Fruit Growing
Lisa Atemoya growing in the shade

The best time to artificially hand pollinate sugar apple flowers is in the morning time from 5:00 AM – 8:00 AM. The best time to artificially hand-pollinate atemoya flowers is in the evening time from 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM.

It is recommended to hand pollinate your sugar apple and atemoya flowers to produce a better fruit set and yield.

Materials You Need To Artificially Hand Pollinate Your Sugar Apple and/or Atemoya Flowers

  • Pipe cleaner, a horsehair paintbrush with soft hairs, or Q-tip
  • Black film canister, pill jar, dark-colored cup

3 Steps To Hand Pollinate Your Sugar Apple Tree Successfully

  1. Identify your sugar apple is in the stage of pollination. When sugar apple flowers first open they are females, but then they will turn to males by the next day. The male stage is when to collect the pollen. The way to identify if it’s a male flower is by identifying their open pedal formation compared to the female flower which is slightly closed.
  2. Use your pipe cleaner (or selected pollen-collecting tool) and brush the insides of the male flower while holding your film canister (or selected cup) under and lightly brush the inside of the flowers while observing the pollen from the male flower fall.
  3. Once pollen is collected from the male flower, look for a female stage flower and take the pollen and collect it onto your tool. Take the pollen and slightly open up the pedal and brush the pollen inside the female flower. It is recommended to use your brushing tool more than once to maximize the amount of pollen in the flower.
Female Male Sugar Apple Flower
Female Flower compared to Male Flower

How Do I Pollinate My Sugar Apple Flowers Naturally?

In Florida’s nature, the Nitidulid beetle is the natural pollinator of the sugar apple flower. Without these beetles present in the yard, the flowers may not pollinate or semi-pollinate leading to irregular fruit growth or no fruit at all. If your garden has no nitidulid beetles present it is because there is not enough rotting fruit and vegetables around the yard.

Creating a compost ditch is very beneficial in any Florida garden, check out this article on how to make your very own.

Nitilud beetles in Florida are typically found where decomposing fruit and vegetable are. In these areas is where they like to feed and reproduce. We recommend either having a compost ditch on your property or in a bin. Although the nitidulid beetle is attracted to the strong aroma of flowering sugar apple flowers it also needs food to feed on.

Here is a video by Truly Tropical on hand pollinating annonas (sugar apples)

How Old Does A Sugar Apple Tree Have To Be Before Having Flowers?

Sugar apple grown by seed takes around 2-3 years before it is able to flower and set fruit. It is recommended to allow plants to grow vigorously the first few years to not allow your sugar apple to fruit to encourage root development – but if you love the taste of the fruit it might be difficult waiting.

Problems After Artificial Aand Pollination Of Sugar Apple Flowers

Some problems growers might face after hand pollination of sugar apple flowers although winds, fruit pests, disease, and fruit rot.

Sugar apple fruit may face several diseases or problems while bearing fruit. Dry fruit rot is a disease to sugar apples caused by fungi. Typically these fungi appear on your tree after the emergence of an Annona Seed Borer.

Annona Seed Borer is the most focused on pest when it comes to sugar apple trees in Florida. Female Annona seed borers will lay their eggs inside the seeds of small fruit. Once the larvae develop in the seed it will burrow out of the fruit essentially ruining the whole fruit.

Symptoms your fruit has had the annona seed borer is a small black hole on the fruit or browning on the fruit itself

The solution to prevent the annona seed borer is to bag up your fruit once they reach a size. We strongly recommend using a protective fruit bag like this one here to prevent the annona seed borer laying eggs in your fruit.

Benefits Of Having Both Sugar Apple And Atemoya In Your Garden

Some gardeners have reported successful atemoya hand pollination with the pollen of a sugar apple flower.

Harvesting Of Sugar Apple

Sugar apple is harvested typically in the late summer throughout the fall season.

Sugar apples will ripen naturally if left growing on the tree and eventually fall down. It is recommended to pick these fruit while they are large, green, and hard and place them to ripen inside. Often outside critters such as raccoons, squirrels, birds, and other pests will compete with you for this tasty fruit.

The sugar apple when ripen will have a yellow lining within the bumpy eyes of the fruit. Also, the fruit will become somewhat soft, so soft that you could puncture the skin of the fruit if you applied very little pressure.

It is recommended to pick your sugar apple or atemoya fruit before they fall to the ground because there skin will be so soft and will most likely split on impact.

Where To Purchase Sugar Apple Trees In Florida

Sugar apple is grown in the southern parts of Florida and is widely loved for its delicious custard taste. If you would like to purchase a sugar apple tree you could do so here.

Where to Purchase Atemoya Trees In Florida

If you are having trouble finding atemoya trees we recommend buying Atemoya trees here. Atemoya are not as common as the sugar apple tree in Florida but it should be grown more widely. The atemoya is much more cold-resistant making it ideal for the colder nights in Florida.