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How To Get Rid Of Codling Moth In Apple Trees [7 Practical Methods]

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If you have an orchid, you may be familiar with these small tubular-shaped pests. Codling moths can be quite a nuisance and leave you with dozens of ravaged apples during the fall and winter months. We've researched the best ways to get rid of these late-season pests, and in this post, we will cover several effective solutions with you.

Here are ways that you can help eradicate codling moths prevent them from destroying your apple trees:

  • Encourage natural predators and insects
  • Use beneficial nematodes
  • Use pyrethrin-based insecticide
  • Hang moth traps
  • Use a spinosad-based spray
  • Fruit bagging
  • Try trunk banding

Sometimes keeping codling moths at bay requires a multi-pronged approach. This means using different techniques to catch the moths in various stages of their growth. Continue reading to learn more details about how to get rid of these insects.

A codling moth larva inside an apple, How To Get Rid Of Codling Moth In Apple Trees [7 Practical Methods]

Ways To Get Rid Of Codling Moth In Apple Trees

Caterpillar pest codling moth crawls

Encourage natural predators and insects

One great way to control the population of codling moths in your orchard is to encourage natural predators of these moths to pay a visit. Natural predators of these pests include parasitic wasps, lacewing larvae, bats, and over 30 different species of birds, with the most common birds being sparrows, swallows, flycatchers, juncos, titmice, and woodpeckers. These birds are particularly known to help keep codling moth populations down significantly.

To attract these predators, create and attach nesting boxes to trees or tall poles 8 to 20 feet above the ground and far away from human activity. It's also helpful to include a bit of nesting material such as wood shavings and twigs to help attract the birds.

Use Beneficial Nematodes

Also known as EPNs, these cocooned larvae can be added to your orchard during the late season and placed on the ground beneath the trees or directly on tree trunks. You can purchase them from most garden stores or from online retailers. When applying the nematodes, it's usually best to wait until post-harvest, when daytime temperatures are still above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

The formulations can be mixed with water and can be applied using a watering can or lance applicator. If the infected trees have loose, rough, or cracked bark, be sure to spray the trunk of the trees and up to at least three feet high on the bark of the tree.

Use Pyrethrin-based Insecticide

You can also apply a pyrethrin-based insecticide to spray the apple trees at the start of spring, right before they begin to bloom--and when the moths are still in their cocoons. Pyrethrin sprays are recommended for orchards as they are less harsh on edible plants and shrubs, and they are very effective at killing codling moths, mites, and other common garden pests. It's best to spray the insecticide using a garden sprayer and ensure that you have full protective gear, including long sleeves, a ventilator mask, and gloves.

Take a look at this protection suit on Amazon.

Hang Moth Traps

Moth prevention wouldn't be complete without a few traps hanging around the orchard. Traps allow an easy way to keep the codling moth population down and prevent them from gaining access to your entire orchard. These traps work by lowering the moth populations using a pheromone to attract the male codling moth specifically. The female codling moth can't produce eggs without the male moth, thus the trap's effectiveness.

Keep in mind that the trap should be hung on the outside of trees where the moths tend to gather. The best to make it as easy as possible for the mobs to access the trap, and you'll want to leave them up for about three weeks to ensure full effectiveness. You may need to replace the traps every 3 weeks with new ones. Determining when the codling moths are most active can help you decide the best time to install the traps, though this is usually before the trees start to flower.

Read more details about these moth traps on Amazon.

Use a Spinosad-based Spray

Spinosad sprays contain a naturally occurring soil bacterium that can help to control insects such as codling moths, fruit flies, caterpillars, and other garden pests. This particular insecticide works by attacking the insects' nervous system, causing paralysis and death within a couple of days.

It's best to apply the insecticide in late March or April to catch the moths while still larvae. You can apply the spray to your trees every couple of weeks to kill the larvae and any adult moths before they become a problem. You can also use this insecticide as a follow-up spray after the spring.

Check out this spinosad-based insecticide on Amazon.

Fruit Bagging

Fruit bagging can prevent codling moths from finding and damaging your apples. The bag will provide physical protection from the moths and prevent the female moths from laying activities. Although this method can be a bit laborious, it is safe, inexpensive, and relatively easy. It also provides you with a fail-proof method to keep your apples safe from codling moths during their prime feeding season. It's best to bag the apples about a week or so before the blossom drop. Here are the steps to do it.

  1. Purchase a few packs of plastic bags. You can also find biodegradable bags and recyclable bags on Amazon--they don't have to be a specific bag brand.
  2. Using a pair of scissors, cut off the bottom two corners of each bag at an angle. This will allow moisture to drain away from the bag as it accumulates from the developing fruit. You don't want the apples to spoil during the process.
  3. Next, place a bag over each apple on the tree or a cluster of a few apples, and make sure there is enough room in the bag to hold all of the apples.
  4. Next, tie a knot around the end of the bag or use a twist tie to cover it completely so that the moths will not be able to access the apples.

Check out these plastic bags on Amazon.

Try Trunk Banding

Trunk banding involves placing a band at the trunk base and another one about 3 or 4 inches above it. Wrapping the apple trees with bands of cardboard or burlap helps to capture cocooning codling moths before they have a chance to mature. The best time to apply the bands is around mid-June.

Learn more about this fruit banding material on Amazon.

Where do codling moths come from?

Codling moths have been around for centuries. They are attracted to the sugar in apples and other common garden fruits. They are particularly common in central and southeastern Minnesota, where commercial orchards are common.

What does codling moth do to apples?

Butterfly sits on an green apple

Codling moths look for areas of easy access on the outer skin of apples. They plant their larvae on the outside of the apple, which will cause the site to begin to rot. The larva will then tunnel into the inner core of the apple, feeding on the seed. The larvae will remain inside the apple until they reach maturity.

What do you spray on apple trees for codling moths?

You can use several different insecticide sprays to get rid of codling moths, such as Spinosad and Cyd-X. Both of these sprays are somewhat toxic, so it's best to use them with caution. Many nematode-based solutions can be applied to the apple trees as well.

When Should I spray my apple trees for codling moth?

The best time to spray the apple trees is before the blossom, which is usually in early to mid-spring. At this time, most of the codling moths are still larvae.

How do you get rid of codling moths naturally?

One of the best natural ways to get rid of codling moths is to spray your apple trees with neem oil. You can repeat this every two weeks for as long as necessary.

Learn more about neem oil on Amazon.

Can you eat apples with codling moth?

Yes. You can carve away the affected area of the apple and eat any portions that haven't been affected by the moths; codling moths are not known to be poisonous or parasitic to humans. Granted, many people may be deterred from eating apples containing the moth.

How do I keep codling moths off my apple tree?

The best way to keep codling moths off your apple tree is to use a combination of control methods such as insecticides, traps, fruit bagging, tree banding, and the utilization of natural predators.

Wrapping Things Up

Controlling codling moths can be difficult, especially if you have a large orchard. The best way to keep them at bay is to be diligent in using preventive measures before the blossoming season.

Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:

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