Codling moths have accounted for more damage to apples then any other pest. Their unique biology combined with their physical attributes makes them forever a formidable foe to anyone that grows apples. Whether you have 1 tree or an orchard spanning hundreds of acres, codling moths can take away your harvest quickly and consistently. This article will detail their biology and then offer practical and viable treatment schedules which will help keep your apples in tip top shape and not worm food!



Codling moths actually don’t cause any damage. In fact, like many other insects, it’s their larva which do all the bad deeds. Codling moths overwinter in the pupa stage and emerge in the spring when local temperatures are right. This is a key time for controlling the emerging adults and every region has a different time of the year when such activity happens. Getting an early grip on their development can prove to be a big help when the local environment has a large population. Since codling moths are present in all parts of the world, there is no single time or date when everything starts. Since their young feed primarily on apples, the adults will emerge at a time when food will be ready for when their offspring need it. At this time, males will be seeking females. Once mated, females will begin to lay eggs. If this occurs early in the season, she will lay her eggs on the branches and the bark of local apple trees. The first egg laying will yield small amounts of eggs and sometimes only one at a time will be laid. As the temperatures warm, so too will her egg yield. Though these females will only live about one month, they will lay 50-100 eggs during this time.

The eggs will develop and start to hatch in 2-4 weeks. This will again depend largely on local temperatures. A colder spring will tend to keep them dormant longer; warm weather will get them going all the more faster. Once hatched, larva or “apple worms” will forage for fruit on which to feed. It is not uncommon for one apple to have several larva inside. It is also not uncommon for a larva worm to enter an apple and then die. This promotes rot and discolors fruit making it look bad and rotten. Once inside, larva will feed and grow through 4-5 instars or stages of development. Once completing their stages, larva will leave the fruit and seek a good place to pupate. In the southern zone of the United States, this cycle will play out over the course of the growing season. Eggs will hatch larva worms which will feed on apples; once they have gone through their growth they will leave the apple to spin a cocoon in which to change to an adult and then emerge to mate and reproduce. This could happen several times a year if conditions are right. However, it is most common to have two cycles occur in any one year and sometimes three. For this reason it is important to get the moth stage before they are able to lay eggs. Since larva cannot move great distances, if egg laying is minimized so too will larva damage. This essentially means that if you are able to stop all moths from laying eggs on any one tree or fruit, no damage would happen to it. Though this sounds easy and sound, the reality of achieving success is minimal. For this reason it is important to employ different strategies for different times of the year.

Any weekend gardener knows the problems codling moths present. Apples which appeared to be OK through much of the spring and summer can turn bad quickly. Codling moth damage from their young makes any fruit more susceptible to disease and other predators and since most larva will be in the apple itself, direct spraying is not effective. However, there is a schedule that can be followed which will help to minimize if not eliminate the damage this little “worm” can cause.



Codling MothAs explained above, interrupting the mating process is key to preventing the cycle from getting established. If you can prevent females from mating with males, you will effectively reduce the amount of egg laying which occurs on the tree. Yes it is true that moths can come from other areas and find your tree but this is not too likely. Since most pupa hatch close to where they fed as larva they will be attracted to the same trees that have provided food for all generations before them. Furthermore, codling moths don’t fly all too well. They are not designed to travel great distances and though they can move from one tree to another in any one orchard, once they leave that common ground they are pretty much lost. For this reason, it is safe to say that any one tree or stand of trees has a certain amount of “seed” pupa which will hatch in any one spring. Clearly impacting this first hatching can have a dramatic impact on just how many or just how few codling moths are able to develop over the course of the year. For this reason it is imperative that you get up some CODLING MOTH TRAPS before any over wintering pupa hatch. Yes, it may still be cold out, but if you want to protect your crop, it’s better to be safe then sorry. Just remember the old adage about “the early bird gets the worm”. Well, your taste in worms might not be a codling moth worm but getting them before they get your apples is what any grower would prefer!

Codling MothCodling Moth Traps:


Timely placement of Codling Moth traps will assuredly cut down on the amount of egg laying which can occur. However, it is not likely that traps alone will serve to collect and kill every moth around any one or group of apple trees. As a commercial grower, there are detailed control programs which are beyond the scope of this article which must be followed if your goal is to produce the best crop possible with the highest yield. The author has directed his writing more toward the week end grower; the farmer with 5-25 trees who may sell a few on a the roadside but probably gives most away. For these growers, there are several more things you can do once the season begins and moths are flying. If you only have one tree to protect, this same program will apply. Remember, Traps will catch a lot of males which will not be able to mate allow for egg laying females. However, some will inevitably get to meet and some eggs are sure to find their way onto your trees. To deal with this, there are varying degrees of options. Choose a method with which you feel comfortable and one that will allow you to achieve your goal. This is largely an individual choice since apples to some are the gardens finest yield and to others are nothing but deer food. If you intend on harvesting as many apples as you can and are tired of producing nothing but worm food, get your traps out early and keep them renewed during the season. Remember to replace them once a month and try to have at least one trap per tree.



Insecticidal SoapOnce you start catching moths, you know the adults are active. Once they are active, you will probably end up with some eggs on the tree. Though there is nothing to stop the eggs from hatching, there are several products which can be applied to the tree which will kill them as they forage about looking for fruit. This is another tricky proposition since larva are only active foraging for a few days at most. If fruit is available, they will find it and once they do, the fruit will serve as protection from any spray. However, early liquid treatments can serve you by killing off emerging young. There are two liquid products which will work well for this application. The organic option is INSECTICIDAL SOAP which is one of the safest options.

Insecticidal SoapInsect Soap:


First, it will kill off any females which are on the tree and second it will quickly kill off the larva as they crawl about in search of food. The big limitation of the treatment is that it is so safe it provides no residual. This means it is active only when you are applying it to the tree. Once dry it is pretty much useless and will need to be applied again. The rule to follow is to treat every few days for at least 2 weeks starting one week after the first adult males have been trapped. Timing treatments this way means you will begin to start treating before any significant egg laying has occurred and if you stick to it form 3-4 weeks, in all likelihood you will have killed off all larva that may have hatched. If you stick to this schedule during the first part of the season you can dramatically reduce the amount of codling moth activity that will ever develop for that one year.

Veg PlusNow if want an active that will last longer than the Insecticidal Soap, use VEGETABLES PLUS PERMETHRIN. This product is safe enough to apply over fruit and vegetables and yet it will provide a residual that will last 1-2 weeks. This means that you will only have to treat once every two weeks one week after you see the first adults trapped. The residual action of the Permethrin is strong enough to provide protection for this long killing off the larva as they crawl over treated parts of the tree.

Veg PlusVegetables Plus Perm:


Cyonara RTSIf you don’t have a sprayer or would like something a little easier to apply, the CYONARA RTS might be better suited for your needs. It too is a sprayable concentrate but it comes in a handy “ready to spray” quart jug. Just hook it up to your garden hose, turn it on and your ready to go. It’s odorless, very effective against codling moths and you get good coverage from each quart.

Cyonara RTSCyonara RTS:


Spreader StickerPump SprayerWhich ever liquid treatment you choose, be sure to use a good SPRAYER to do the application. We have several which will handle this job well since getting good coverage is important. One other thing. If you decide to use the Permethrin, get some SPREADER STICKER to add to the tank mix along with the concentrate. Spreader Sticker will enable the Permethrin to “spread” over the tree, leaves and fruit that much better so that you get a dispersal when the spray hits targeted surfaces. This is important when treating most plants and apple trees are no different. Eggs and larva can be hiding in the most obscure places and though they don’t do this intentionally, simply spraying to the point of runoff does not mean you have saturated the plant. Any larva which are on a remote part of the plant during this treatment will assuredly escape unless they crawl over some area which was treated. Don’t give them a chance – add some Spreader Sticker.

Pump SprayerPump Sprayer:

Spreader StickerSpreader Sticker:


Lastly, treating



Dustin MizerPermethrin DustOne last option is for anyone that prefers dusting to liquid sprays. PERMETHRIN DUST uses the same active ingredient as the sprayable and is very gentle on the plant as well. It too will provide a week or two of protection and larva which crawl through it or adults which land on it will die so it will help get the ones that got away. Apply it with a DUSTIN MIZER to get maximum coverage and treat no less than once every two weeks one week following adult activity.

Permethrin DustPermethrin Dust:

Dustin MizerDustin Mizer:


Since codling moths will remain active for different lengths of time for different regions of the country, it is important to follow these guidelines throughout your growing season. The one thing for sure is to have Codling Moth Traps out during the whole season. Once you start seeing adults, the extent of treatment needed will depend largely on your individual goals or how much you want to protect your tree. Liquid spraying will help you achieve these goals and maximize your yield and when combined with a good layout of traps, codling moths will have to find some other tree in which to live!


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Comments on CODLING MOTH CONTROL Leave a Comment

January 30, 2012

Bob Lawson @ 10:42 am #


Excellent article!

February 14, 2012

Alan @ 5:31 am #


I have been trying to find a straight forward article concerning the problem of Codling moths without success until I found this article – Excellent, answered all my questions!

April 14, 2012

Allison @ 4:43 pm #


Thank you for the wonderful article. I’m new to this predicament as I moved into a home with three apple trees full of codling moth a couple of years ago. I have a question and I hope it’s not a silly one. Is it important to wait to spray insecticidal soap or permethrin until after petal fall to make sure the trees get pollinated (so as not to kill the bees)? If so, what if you catch adult moths in the traps before petal fall? Thank you!

April 15, 2012
September 2, 2014

carl salem @ 6:55 am #


Hi, found your site while trying to find out what a codling moth looked like. I have a huge problem with apple scab this year and will be using a fungicide spray early and often next year. I assume that I also have the moth on the trees. I only have about eight assorted fruit trees so not a lot to worry about. What I would like to know is if I use dormant oil spray, along with the fungicide for pre-emergernce and then once more with leaves in squirrels ear stage, when do I need to spray for moth control? Also, I will be using the fungicide as growth progresses. Can I use your spray mixed with the fungicide and if so, what spray do I need use. I would like one with residual as long as possible. I have a pull behind tank sprayer.

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