How Kootenay Covers Physically Protect Growing Fruit
Kootenay Covers are made from a soft white flexible, but very strong, polyester netting. The holes in the netting are small enough to keep adult bugs from laying eggs in the covered fruit tree. The covers also provide a variety of physical protections to the growing fruit. Described here are several ways that the strong coverings protect the growing fruit.
Apple sunburn causes as much as 10% of commercially grown fruit to be discarded according to some studies. Kootenay Covers reflect some of the UV energy due to their white color mesh. This reflection may be enough to cool and shield the apples so that they do not get sunburned as frequently. Due to the wide variation in UV intensity due to climate, elevation, and seasonal weather, predicting how much UV is too much, and whether the cover will provide enough protection is impossible. But as a side benefit of growing bug-free fruit, sunburn reduction or elimination may be very helpful to growers in sunny dry locations.
Hail storms can wreak havoc on a variety of growing fruit. They mar the skin of the fruit. They can knock some types of fruit off the tree. Other fruit gets ripped open, making the fruit rot quickly on the tree. Strong hail storms can also tear the leaves and remove them from the tree, retarding the growth of the fruit itself. The Kootenay Covers form a flexible, almost bouncy, shield from the hail. When the hail hits the cover they typically bounce off leaving the vast majority of the fruit untouched. Some fruit on the very outer surface of the tree may still be damaged, but most of the fruit will be untouched. Leaves are protected as well, remaining whole and ready to feed the growth of the fruit through the end of the season.
Birds seem to know just when the fruit is ripe. They seem to peck many of the best fruits across the top of the tree. Cherries, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, and plums are all common targets of hungry birds. The Kootenay Covers protect the fruit by physically keeping birds away from the ripening fruit. The mesh is strong enough to keep the birds from getting in.
Several species of wasps and hornets also eat ripening fruit. The covers will keep wasps away from the fruit as long as you have the covers in place.
Squirrels are a problem in some home orchards. They seem to attack fruit just as it ripens. The Kootenay Covers may deter some squirrel attacks, but not all of them. Given enough time and persistence, squirrels can chew through Kootenay Covers. We do not recommend using the covers to deter squirrels.
Wind storms occasionally cause fruit to fall from the tree. The Kootenay Covers allow some of the wind to pass through the covers, and some goes around the cover. The result is that the harsh bursts of wind that seem to knock off the fruit are slowed down enough so that the fruit stays in the trees until picked. Wind damage often seems to come just before harvest time. The fruit is nearly ripe and is somewhat vulnerable to gusts of wind. But, with a Kootenay Cover, wind is tempered and the nearly ripe fruit stays on the tree until picked.
Some larger wild animals such as raccoons, opossums and even black bears sometimes visit orchards to eat fruit. Kootenay Covers may slow down these large wild animals. Given enough time, the animals may tear the covers and get some fruit. One user reported having a black bear in her apple tree. The bear tore several holes in the cover, but eventually gave up and went away. The covers may protect against some attacks, but we do not recommend using the covers to stop bears, raccoons, skunks, opposums or other large fruit stealing pests.