Codling Moth Control for Fruit Trees

The codling moth is a terrible pest of apple and pear trees, and even to a lesser extent stone fruit and nut trees. The moths emerge in the early spring when the trees start to bloom. The moths are greyish in color with brown mixed in. They have a wingspan of about ¾ of an inch. The female moth starts to lay tiny pinhead sized eggs when the evening temperature gets to be above 59 degrees F. She will usually lay the eggs on the leaves of your fruit trees. After about 10 days the eggs hatch and the caterpillars begin to feed. At first they may feed on the leaves, but eventually they will burrow into your fruit where it will feed for a month or so. After the larvae reaches maturity it will move out of the apple to find a suitable place to spin a cocoon and pupate. Usually, the larvae will pupate under loose bark on the tree, or in the ground. Then the larvae will emerge as the dreaded codling moth to start the process over again. The codling moth can have between 2-4 generations a year depending on your climate.


It is extremely difficult to control the codling moth without chemical controls. This pest can ruin 90% of an apple or pear crop. In the past, I used BT or bacillus thuringiensis, which is an organic bacterial control for caterpillars. I am going to attempt to only use cultural methods of control this year. If the codling moth gets really bad, I may have to reevaluate my methods. So, I am taking a multiple pronged approach to the codling moth:


1. My chickens will be grazing in my zone 1 orchard/ food forest, so they will help to eliminate the codling moth that are pupating in the soil. They will also eat the fallen fruit, which often contains the larvae. This will help to break the pest cycle. It’s great to harness the power of the chicken!


2. I will be checking my fruit every 2 weeks for signs of larvae entry. They leave a brownish mess where they drill into the fruit. These fruits will be disposed of to help break the pest cycle. The chickens will benefit from this as well. The worms inside will be like the cream inside a twinkie.    


3. I am planting a polyculture of plants underneath my fruit trees. This will help to encourage the predator insects to stay and help to control the codling moth. Having lots of blooming plants that provide nectar of great variety will help to encourage some of the great moth predators like the trichogramma wasp, braconid wasps, tachinid flies, earwigs, and spiders.

I still have to install the shrub layer, and my summer plants have yet to germinate, but this nectarine will be supported by a nice polyculture.

4. I am also using corrugated cardboard bands placed at the base of the trunk of the trees and near the first set of branches. This will provide an inviting place for the larvae to pupate. I can then pull the bands off every couple of weeks and feed the pupating larvae to my chickens. The corrugated part of the band should be facing the trunk, and it is important to have them in place from the point of bloom in the early spring to harvest.

Corrugated Cardboard


Cardboard Codling Moth Traps


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