Overwintering of conidia of Venturia inaequalis associated with shoots and buds was determined, and the contribution to early spring epidemics of apple scab was evaluated during three consecutive seasons (1999 to 2001) in the Netherlands. Examinations of shoot samples collected before bud break showed that the percentage of shoots with superficial black fungal mycelia or conidia was above 65%, and the mean number of conidia on a 1-cm piece of shoot length ranged from 581 to 1,033. However, germination tests showed that the viability of conidia on shoots was less than 1.5%. No macroscopic scab lesions were detected on the scales of dormant buds. However, microscopic examinations of individual bud tissues demonstrated that the number of conidia was >3,000 per 100 buds in each year. The mean viability of conidia associated with buds ranged from 0.7 to 1.9% and from 3.7 to 10.5% for the outer and inner bud tissues, respectively. Results of field assessments at tight-cluster phenological stage showed that the percentage of infection caused by the viable overwintered conidia ranged from 0.3 to 3.8% in the various treatments. Our results indicated that conidia were unlikely to overwinter on the surface of shoots or outer bud tissues, where they were exposed to fluctuating environmental conditions, and, consequently, were unlikely to play a role in initiating an early epidemic of apple scab in the spring. However, our results indicated a risk from overwintered conidia in the inner bud tissues arising from a high level of scab the previous autumn. Therefore, orchards with high levels of apple scab, where ascosporic inoculum is much reduced, e.g., by sanitation, should be protected in early spring by means of fungicide treatment at green tip.