Yes, it is possible to get rid of codling moths using time-tested, organic and natural techniques. Here’s how:
Found in all apple-growing areas of the world, the codling moth (Cydia pomonella) is considered to be one of the most destructive pests of apples. Adults are gray to brown moths with a 3/4 inch wingspan. They have a chocolate-colored patch at the tip of each forewing and coppery transverse markings.
Codling moth larvae are pink or creamy white caterpillars with mottled brown heads that tunnel through apples directly to the core. As they feed, they push out mounds of fecal material, called frass, which gathers around the entrance hole. Damage lowers the market value of the fruit and makes it unfit for human consumption. Alternate host plants include pears, crabapples, walnuts and stone fruits.
Note: The codling moth was introduced to North America by the colonists more than 200 years ago and is now one of the leading pests in home orchards.
Full grown larvae pass through the winter in a cocoon beneath loose bark or in orchard litter. Pupation takes place in the spring. Moths begin emerging about the time that apple trees are in bloom and lay an average of 50 to 60 eggs on leaves, twigs and fruits. Once eggs hatch the larvae feed briefly on leaves, then damage fruit by boring into the centers. Larvae feed for three weeks, then leave to seek a suitable place to spin cocoons. There are two generations per year.
How to Control
- Scrape loose bark in early spring to remove overwintering cocoons and then spray All Seasons® horticultural oil to eradicate eggs and first generation early instar stages.
- Beneficial nematodes are microscopic, worm-like parasites that actively hunt, penetrate and destroy immature stages of this pest. Spray on trunks and main branches, and also over the soil out to the drip line for a 60% to 90% mortality in pre-pupae.
- Use pheromone traps to determine the peak flight period for moths, then release trichogramma wasps to attack eggs. Pheromone traps will also help reduce male moths where populations are low and trees are isolated.
- Bt-kurstaki (Bt) and Spinosad sprays are moderately effective since the larvae spend so little time feeding outside the fruit. Apply during egg hatching only (consult with a local extension agent for exact times).
- Surround WP — a wettable kaolin clay — can be used to deter a broad range of fruit tree pests (and diseases), and will reduce codling moth damage by 50-60%. Apply before moths arrive and continue for 6-8 weekly applications, or until the infestation is over.
- In areas of severe infestation, spray plant-derived insecticides when 75% of petals have fallen, followed by three sprays at 1-2 week intervals. These natural pesticides have fewer harmful side effects than synthetic chemicals and break down more quickly in the environment.
Tip: In spring, band tree trunks tightly with corrugated cardboard strips (4- to 6-inches wide) to provide a site for larvae to spin their cocoons. Remove and destroy the strips after cocoons are formed.
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