Pecan Pest Control-Birds, Squirrels, and Other Varmits Insect Pest Control
I can always tell when the pecans are ready to harvest without ever stepping out into the orchard. Quite simply, the pecans are ready when the crows show up. I'll bet you read our section on insect control before you landed on this page. We as pecan producers tend to be caught up in insect damage control, while losses resulting from birds, squirrels, deer, and other pecan pests can be far more damaging to our bottom line. My advise to control losses from these predators is this...get your pecans harvested and out of their reach as soon as possible...if at all possible.
Crows, Bluejays, and Such
One crow can consume and/or damage fifteen pounds of pecans per month, and these predators tend to show up by the hundreds just as the hulls begin to split and expose your pecans. It is hard to imagine that a minor insect infestation could come close to causing the monetary losses that these birds inflict upon us. Crows are highly intelligent creatures and can be a challenge to control. However, their intelligence can be used to our advantage. Quite often I find myself stepping out onto the front porch and screaming at a hundred or so crows making my pecan crop their morning snack. For the most part, my vocal threats go unheeded. If I step out and cock my shotgun, however, the entire flock takes to the skies. Old timers swear that if you hang a dead crow from a tree limb, the others will take heed and avoid your orchard. I have seen this to appear to be effective. Bird cannons, propane propelled devises that are timed to go off periodiocally, are also effective as long as they work. My young daughter and I built a scarecrow several years ago, and as long as I moved it around the orchard every few days, seemed to do the trick. There are various devises available that claim to repell bird predators, ranging from plastic snakes to motion detector 'owls.' All of these repellants play on the intelligence these birds possess.
Squirrels consume even more of your crop, although they typically don't arrive in droves like the crows do. One squirrel can consume fourteen pounds of pecans each month, and they don't wait on hull split. They will begin invading our trees just as soon as the nuts begin to form around the first of September. We do not have a squirrel problem in our orchard. I've seen only one squirrel the entire time we've had this orchard and he must have just been passing through. While a handfull of squirrels probably won't make or break you as far as profits go, if you see the need to control these critters, many options are effective. Various traps are readily available, and repellants can be used to discourage these pests. And you can always break out your grandpa's trusty old squirrel gun.
While you're wasting ammunition taking pot shots at squirrels, those gophers beneath your soil are busy chomping on your pecan trees' feeder roots as well as gnawing holes in your poly irrigation hose. Destroying your tree roots will inevitably set your tree back and could even kill a young pecan tree. Even more devestating to the growth of your trees is the tunnels these rodents burrow around the trunk, which will divert water intended for your tree to drain wastefully down the hole. While gopher traps and poisons can be found at most garden centers, we discovered that the addition of a couple of farm cats to our crew completely eliminated our gopher problem.
Rats and Field Mice
These rodents not only carry off the pecans laying around your trees, they will cause considerable damage to pecans you have stored after harvest. Glue traps and poisons are effective, but a few good barn cats are a valuable asset in controlling these pests.
Deer, Goats, and Other Large Predators
While we don't have a problem with deer devouring our pecan crop, we can relate to a 'goat attack' on a pecan orchard. Some years back, a neighbor across the road unloaded a hundred or so goats into his pasture. When I got out of bed the following morning and glanced out the front window, I was horrified to see the entire herd of these 'tree eaters' squirming through a hole in a fence, running across the highway and literally begin devouring our young pecan trees. I made quite a spectacle of myself as I ran out into the orchard wearing only shorts and sandels, so much so that several farmers passing by pulled off the road to watch. Thankfully, they assisted me in running the goats out of the orchard. Even though the neighbor never poked his head out his front door, the goats were gone the following day. Today we maintain a small herd of goats in our back pasture and from time to time they manage to find a way into our pecan orchard. We've found that a good fence and/or a good dog will keep larger pecan predators out of your orchard.
One crow can devour a half pound of pecans per day.