Codling Moth Infestation in a Garden

Codling moth larvae (USDA)

Codling moths are a common pest of pome fruit trees, such as apples, pears, and quince. The larvae of the codling moth feed on the fruit, causing it to become wormy and unmarketable. This not only reduces the yield of the fruit crop, but also affects the health of the tree. In severe cases, the infestation can cause significant damage to the tree, reducing its ability to produce fruit in future seasons.

In addition to causing direct damage to the fruit, codling moths can also serve as vectors for disease, spreading fungal and bacterial infections from one fruit to another as they feed. This can further reduce the quality and quantity of the fruit crop.


It’s important to check your fruit trees regularly for signs of codling moth infestations, as early detection and treatment can help prevent significant damage to your fruit crop. By monitoring your fruit trees regularly for signs of codling moth infestations and implementing appropriate control measures, you can help to protect your fruit crop and ensure a healthy and productive garden.

  • Small, round holes in the fruit’s skin, often located near the stem end
  • Brown, frass (insect excrement) around the holes, which may also contain bits of chewed-up fruit
  • Larvae (worms) inside the fruit, which can be white or pink in color and up to 1 inch long
  • Discolored, mushy areas around the holes, which may spread and cause the fruit to rot
  • Premature fruit drop, which may occur before the fruit has fully ripened

What is a Codling Moth

Adult Moth

  • Grayish-brown wings with a wingspan of about 1 inch
  • Dark, coppery-brown markings on the wings
  • A white band around the edge of the wings
  • Thick, fuzzy antennae
  • A plump, grayish-brown body


  • White or pink in color
  • Up to 1 inch long
  • Slightly translucent, with a visible brown head capsule
  • Cylindrical in shape, with a slightly flattened appearance
  • Covered in tiny hairs

Treating a Codling Moth Infestation

To control codling moth infestations in a garden, it’s important to implement an integrated pest management (IPM) program that incorporates multiple control methods, such as physical, cultural, chemical, and biological control methods. These methods can be used alone or in combination to reduce the number of codling moths in the area and prevent future infestations.

Physical Control Methods

  • Hand picking: Physically removing infested fruit from the tree and destroying it can help to reduce the population of codling moths. This method is most effective when infestations are detected early.
  • Traps: Pheromone traps can be used to lure male codling moths, reducing the number of moths available to mate and lay eggs. These traps should be placed in the tree canopy prior to the beginning of the growing season.
  • Netting: Covering the fruit trees with protective netting can prevent codling moths from accessing the fruit to lay their eggs. The netting should be tightly woven and securely attached to the tree to be effective.

Cultural Control Methods

  • Pruning: Pruning the tree to improve air flow and increase sunlight penetration can help to reduce the number of suitable sites for codling moths to lay their eggs. This is especially effective when combined with other control methods, such as the use of pheromone traps or insecticides.
  • Sanitation: Removing fallen fruit and debris from around the base of the tree can reduce the number of sites where codling moths can overwinter.
  • Crop rotation: Planting non-host crops, such as vegetables, in the area where fruit trees are grown can reduce the number of codling moths in the area.

Chemical Control Methods

  • Insecticides: Spraying the tree with an insecticide can kill adult codling moths and their larvae. It’s important to follow the label instructions carefully and to choose a product that is safe for use on food crops.
  • Systemic insecticides: These insecticides are absorbed into the tree and provide long-lasting protection against codling moths. They are most effective when applied prior to bloom.

Biological Control Methods

  • Natural predators: Encouraging the presence of natural predators, such as birds and parasitic wasps, can help to reduce the population of codling moths. This can be achieved by providing nesting sites and food sources for the predators.
  • Microbes: Introducing microbes, such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), can kill codling moth larvae and provide a safe, natural alternative to chemical insecticides.