What’s eating my apple? Codling Moth! 13

Codling moth can cause significant damage to your apple and pear crops

What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple? Half a worm! And that worm is likely to be the larvae of the codling moth (Cydia pomonella). Codling Moth larvae are currently prevalent in apple, pear, nashi and quince fruit. Our large granny smith apple tree is so badly infested this year, that I’m not going to bother netting the fruit. The potential crop of uninfested fruit is so small, it is just not worth it.
Females lay eggs on fruit or leaves in summer and the black-headed yellow larvae attack the fruit immediately upon hatching. Each larva burrows into fruit, and eats it for around three weeks. The grub then emerges from the fruit to overwinter, and pupate elsewhere in spring, and emerge as an adult moth in summer.

How to Control Codling Moth Melbourne

Codling moth leave telltale “frass” (codling moth poo) at the entrance to their hole.

You can tell if codling moth have infested the fruit by looking for the telltale “frass” (codling moth poo) at the entrance to the hole. Any infested fruit should be removed from the tree and destroyed. Don’t bury the fruit or put it in the compost. Instead try cooking it in a sealed, black, plastic bag in the hot sun. You could also feed the fruit to animals or poultry. Having poultry free range under the trees to scratch and eat overwintering larvae, and clean up fallen fruit is also a great idea.

There are quite a few organic strategies that you can use to reduce future codling moth infestations. Reducing hiding places (such as flaky bark) for cocoons is important. Providing traps such as rolling cardboard around the trunk, or pheromone traps can also help to reduce numbers. You’ll need to periodically remove the rolled up cardboard and burn it.

Earwigs eat codling moth eggs (although not enough to rely on for control). The Trichogramma wasp is an important predator in our gardens, as it targets codling moth (as well as many other pest insects). They also feed on nectar. So having plenty of flowering plants in your garden will help to sustain significant populations of predatory wasps, and help keep your codling moth problem under control.

How to Control Codling Moth Melbourne

Codling moth have a black head. Their eggs hatch in summer and the grub quickly burrows into fruit.

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13 thoughts on “What’s eating my apple? Codling Moth!

  • MHodza

    Thank you for the info. How do the eggs laid under leaves look like? Is it possible to be vigilant ther and scrape them off with our fingers or a good strong jet of water?

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi MHodza,

      The eggs look like small scale. In theory you could try and control them that way, but it would be very difficult on anything but the smallest of trees. Earwigs will eat the eggs if you have a good population in the garden (although they’ll probably also eat your veggies too!)

      Good Luck & Happy Gardening!


  • Annmaree Sharkey

    Last year I had clusters of very ugly creatures on my Granny Smith apple tree. They looked like grey moths or blowflies with the three eyes on their wings and back. I guess that must have been the moth laying their eggs. Apples from the tree did have codling moth. Is the tree always going to have codling moth now even though the tree has now been sprayed and pruned?

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Annmaree,

      It’s pretty difficult to eradicate this moth completely. However with good management techniques you can reduce the impacts each year.

      Good Luck & Happy Gardening


      • Anne Frazer

        My Granny Smith and Cox Orange Pippin are both infested with Codling moth. When is it best to start treating this? I am guessing I should removec the fruit and destroy it. But as it is summer, when would it be best to implement strategies suggested. I have many flowering plants and mint growing under the Granny Smith. I have been picking up all the fallen fruit. I purchased some traps but dont think I use them until next season. Not really sure. Can you please advise? I live in Melbourne.

        • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

          Hi Anne,

          We generally remove any infected fruit as soon as we see it. I soak the fruit in a large bin of water to kill the larvae and after a few weeks I add the “stewed” fruit to the compost. The moth will go through several life cycles over the growing season, so it is never too late to start controlling them!

          Happy Gardening!


  • Lauren Bryar

    Hi Duncan, does insect netting the tree help at all? I netted my tree just after it set fruit.
    My beautiful quinces were riddled with them last year!

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Hi Lauren,

      Yes, that’s a perfect solution. I have done similar in the past with an apple tree. Netting the tree early prevented any moths from accessing the tree to lay eggs. I also used a pheromone trap to catch any moths already inside the netting. The third strategy that I used that year was to allow the chooks to forage underneath the tree. The triple combination was very effective.

      How did the netting work out for you this year?

  • Lauren B

    Yes it worked a treat! In early spring I fertilised with dynamic lifter, and laid a layer of cardboard (intended as a weed matting but worked against the moths or slugs as well I think?), weighed that down with a basic wood chip mulch which we get free from a local arborist, then I netted once the fruit had set. Not one piece of fruit was damaged this year! We made so much quince paste we’ve been giving it away by the 1kg tub 😅
    Thanks for all your tips 👍🏻

    • Leaf, Root & Fruit Post author

      Perfect… thanks for sharing your own observations and tips. The cardboard probably did help your cause!