Until we started gardening we loved little fluttering moths and butterflies in the garden. Qué romántico. How’s the ambiance, darling? Is that a leaf in your hair? No? Just a brownish moth with grey crosslines on its back? Gulp. This is where the inner-gardener kicks in, sending an electric SOS to the medulla, which passes on a message to the adrenal glands, which in turn begin to flood our nervous system with a powerful feeling to fight or flee. No time for romance. Nowhere to run. We must stay and fight. The infestation may have already begun.

Like most moths, it is not the mature flyers that we worry about, but the unseen, ravenous larvae. Codling moths lay their eggs on leaves and fruit, which hatch and then bore into the sweet flesh. Once inside, they excavate a cavity (den of sin) and then set about boring to the core where they also feast on the seeds.

Once they have thoroughly defiled your fruit, they remerge to form cocoons under loose bark on the tree or amongst leaf litter on the ground beneath the tree. The best way to treat these pests is to disrupt their lifecycle and not allow them to perpetuate this endless feast and reproduction at your expense.

Optimal Conditions

Late spring is when the moths hatch and begin to lay their larvae on the tree's leaves or new fruit


Brown holes and frass (reddish-brown droppings) on the outside of the fruit. If you cut it open you will find these droppings on the inside of the fruit as well. Shallow entries called 'stings' result when larvae die inside and can appear as a small bruise with a hole.


Do some winter maintenance, tidy trees by scraping off dead bark and removing fallen leaf matter from the base of the tree. This drastically limits the places where cocoons can develop and kills off over-wintering populations.
Use pheromone lures to attract beneficial insects like ladybirds or by planting insectary plants such as flowers, mustard, clover, dill, and coriander.


There can be up to three generations per fruiting season, so once you detect damage, you can still do a lot to prevent further infestation. Cut off all affected fruit as soon as it shows signs of stings (as well as fallen fruit) and dispose of it in the rubbish bin (not compost). Search the leaves, limbs, and bark for oval shaped eggs, larvae or cocoons.
Wrap cardboard or a band of hessian cloth around the trunks of trees to lure out larvae as they look for places to pupate (make cocoons). Check these traps regularly and destroy any critters that have formed.


Spray trees with a solution of white oil and water (dilution 1:50) in the spring to prevent eggs from hatching. You can continue to spray weekly throughout fruiting. This combined with good preventive habits and paying close attention to fruiting trees should be enough to prevent an ongoing issue for most gardeners.

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