Codling Moth Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Codling Moths

Codling moth is one of the most common pests that affect trees of fruits. Also known as Cydia pomonella, it belongs to one of the largest from the moth families. Although the pest is native to Europe, it affects a number of crops around the world. As a serious pest, it does not only affect the plant, but also the fruit. With this, it is important to pay attention to how to get rid of codling moths.

When they reach maturity, codling moths have an average length of ½ to ¾ inch. They also have gray wings, which look like a tent that wraps above their body. Their color is similar to the bark of their host plant, which makes them difficult to spot. Their larva is usually pink and their head is gray. One thing that makes them unique compared to most caterpillars is that they can live inside the fruit of their host plant.

Codling Moth

Codling Moth at Rest on a Leaf

Codling Moth’s Habitat

The habitat of codling moths will depend mostly on its stage of development. When they are eggs, they usually hide and are common in the barks of their host trees. Pupation begins in spring and this is the point wherein their wings begin to develop. When they are in their larval stage, they feed directly on the fruit, with some species even going inside. It is common in regions with temperate climates. In most places, June to September are the months they are most active.

How to Identify Coddling Moths

Plants Affected

The codling moths affect a wide array of trees that bear fruits. With this, some of the most common host plants include apple, walnuts, pear, almond, macadamia, fig, apricot, plum, prune, peach, nectarine, and citrus, among others.


Unsure if there are codling moths affecting your trees? In this case, the following are some of the most common signs that you need to watch out for:

  • One of the most common symptoms is the appearance of frass or a liquid that is excreted by the codling moth. The larva will penetrate the fruit and after digestion, it will excrete a sticky liquid, which will appear on the fruit. This makes the fruit unattractive.
  • Stings can also appear on the fruit. This is an indication that the pest tried to penetrate the fruit but was not able to enter. There will be visible marks on the exterior of the fruit, indicative of shallow entries.
  • In the case of nuts, on the other hand, it may end up falling from the plant while it is still young. If it is old enough, it will be more resistant to damages.

Results of Infestation

In most instances, the damage is purely aesthetics. However, because it targets fruits, such as pears and apples, this will make the crop unmarketable. For commercial growers, this is a big problem as this equates to a loss of profit. In cases of severe infestation, it can affect up to 90% of the fruit, which makes it unfit for human consumption.

Damaged Apple

Apple Fruit with Signs of Codling Moth Infestation

How to Get Rid of Codling Moths

Natural and Organic Solutions

Here is a list of some of the best methods to control and eliminate codling moths:

  • When it comes to non-chemical controls, one of the most effective is bagging the fruit. You should do this before it is too late. This is a method that works best only if there are small trees or if you have to treat a small area. Otherwise, it is an exhausting task. Wrap the fruits in a bag when it reaches about ½ inch in diameter or at least four weeks after blooming. However, there are some fruits that are too small for this method.
  • Another simple solution that will work is the use of different types of traps. In most instances, it is a measure to identify and monitor their presence, but also a promising measure for their prevention and elimination. You can wrap a trap around the tree. The surface has a sticky coating, which will prevent the moth from entering the upper portions of the plant. There are even some traps that release pheromones, which will attract male moths.
  • For biological control, on the other hand, there are natural predators that can prove to be effective as well. Among others, some of the most common are Trichogramma wasps, which will kill the eggs even before they hatch. With a length of less than half a millimeter, they will kill only the target pest and will not be harmful to other insects or humans. Carabid beetles, tachinid flies, earwigs, ladybirds, and ants are other natural predators that will be effective.
  • If you have to use an insecticide, the good news is that there are products that do not contain toxic ingredients. Look for those that contain Bacillus thuringiensis. The latter is a biological ingredient that does not cause harm in any way. For the highest level of success, proper timing of spraying is important. Also, remember that a single spray is not enough.

Chemical Solutions

Especially for commercial growers, it is common to resort to the use of chemicals. This is one thing that needs caution as it is toxic not only to the pests, but even for beneficial insects. Among others, Sevin is one of the products that can yield the highest level of effectiveness. Its main active ingredient is carbaryl, which paralyzes codling moths and kills it. Even after spraying, it is still effective after 21 days. However, like other chemicals, one of the most common problems is that it is toxic even for others. When applying this insecticide, second spraying may be necessary, depending on the extent of the infestation.

How to Prevent Codling Moths

Even before they can spread visible damages, it is important to act the soonest. With this, one of the best preventive measures is to be vigilant. This means that from early on, you should exert effort to determine their possible presence. This will allow you to act as soon as possible. Keeping the crops healthy is also necessary to make it less susceptible to damages in the future.

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