Birds and other animals can destroy a fruit crop. Starlings, for example, eat berries. They also peck at fruit, crush it with their claws and knock it off branches while foraging. You can try visual deterrents, like balloons or kites, to keep away pests. Or, you can use water cannons or recorded predatory bird calls to frighten them away. The most successful method of minimizing pest damage is exclusion, usually in the form of netting.
Netting will keep most birds out. Fruit tree netting is often called "bird netting," but you can use netting to exclude other pests. Netting can also prevent cicadas from laying eggs in the branches of trees or prevent deer from eating fruit from trees. A 1/6-inch mesh can keep larger insects from eating your fruit.
Kinds of Nets
Bird netting is usually made of a synthetic material, like polypropylene. Some netting is one-piece, extruded mesh. Other netting is knitted from long strands. The netting openings are usually square, rectangular or diamond shaped. Most synthetic netting is treated with a UV block to keep the sun from breaking it down. Generally, netting lasts from three to eight years.
How it Works
You can drape bird netting directly over the tree, but it may take two people with long sticks or rakes to lift the net up and over a taller tree. You can then either stake the bottom edges to the ground, piling dirt over any openings, or you can gather the net around the trunk of the tree, tying it to the tree with cord. If you have small trees, you can build a frame of wood, PVC pipe or metal pipe over the top of one or more trees, then drape the netting over the frame and secure it.
Netting is not a perfect barrier. Netting can snare birds. Their claws can snag on the material, trapping them in the net. Small mesh netting, 5/8 inch or smaller, minimizes this problem. Netting doesn't work well for blocking squirrels or raccoons, both of which can chew through netting. Fine-gauge bug netting that blocks pests also blocks pollinators, including bees, butterflies and bats.