Native animals, increasingly displaced from their natural habitat by tree clearing and extreme weather, are resorting to flowering and fruiting trees in our gardens.
Tree netting is a popular way to protect fruit from wildlife, particularly in urban areas, but the wrong type of netting can be deadly. Hungry animals are easily caught in ‘bird netting’, which has a mesh size greater than 1cm square. Wildlife friendly netting should have a mesh size of less than 5 mm.
The rescue statistics show that most animals die with horrific injuries or require long term care before release.
Birds, bats, lizards, snakes and the occasional possum are the main victims of inappropriate netting. Animals become tangled in large mesh netting and cannot free themselves. While struggling to escape, the net cuts ever deeper into the animal.
Like ghostnets in the ocean, unwanted netting can continue to maim and kill. Ensure that discarded netting cannot become a hazard to wildlife.
Tree netting guide
2 ways to protect your backyard fruit and wildlife
1. Protecting individual fruit.
Search online for ‘fruit protection bags’, look for Green Harvest and The Native Shop for a range of bags and sleeves. Plastic garden pots can also be useful.
2. Protecting the whole tree.
We recommend a densely woven net that will not trap wildlife and doesn’t need a frame, such as the Fruit Saver nets, Hail Guard or Vege Net. These nets are all white - the colour best seen by animals at night. Go to our website for videos about these nets and other ideas.
The right netting
Our ‘finger test’ - choose netting that you cannot poke your finger through. The mesh size should be less than 5 mm.
For smaller trees up to 13m in circumference, we recommend Fruit Saver nets, available in 2 sizes.
3 good nets which pass the ‘finger test’
Image 1: Fruitsaver
2 sizes for small and medium trees
Image 2: Hail Guard
Off 6 m roll
Image 3: Vege net
2 sizes, 6m x 10m and 6m x 20m
Fruit Saver Fruit Tree Nets
This fitted box-shaped net has a long skirt that gathers around the trunk of the tree.
The 2mm woven mesh excludes fruit fly and codling moth as well as birds, bats and possums. It has only a 15% shade factor and is currently best bought online at: www.fruittreenets.info
Choose a smaller variety of fruit tree that is easy to protect, prune and harvest
- Use a supporting frame to protect the tree from the weight of the net, and prevent birds pecking fruit through the net
- Consider how you will access your fruit inside the net, Fruit Saver nets have an access flap for this
- The base of the net should be secured to the trunk of the tree or to the ground to prevent wildlife getting inside
- Remove nets promptly after fruiting to prevent damage to new growth
- Check your nets regularly. If an animal is caught visit www.fauna.org.au to find a wildlife carer in your area.
Leading the way
Some hardware stores in Australia have taken the lead and stopped selling netting that is potentially harmful to wildlife. Ask your local supplier to stock only fruit tree netting that passes the ‘finger test’ - netting that you cannot poke your finger through.
For more information
Visit www.wildlifefriendlyfencing.com and look for the link to the netting page. Get up-to-date information including instructional videos showing how to net your trees in a wildlife friendly way.
Information reproduced with permission from Tolga Bat Hospital
To access 24/7 rescue advice and assistance for sick, injured and orphaned native animals call 1300 094 737, or fill in the online rescue form.
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