California: Now is the Time to Organically Prevent Wormy Apples and Pears

    The codling moth is a common and serious pest in Contra Costa County’s home-grown apples, pears, and even in walnuts.

    You probably would never even notice the adult moth, Cydia pomonella, as it is only about ½ to ¾ inch long with mottled gray wings, and it is only active a few hours before and after sunset. The adult moths emerge from pupation in early spring; the female mates then lays her eggs (30‐70) on either leaves or fruit; the eggs hatch and the larvae chew into the developing fruit. The larvae continue to develop inside the fruit where they are protected from any chemical controls.

    When larvae are mature, they exit the fruit to pupate in the soil or on debris under the tree or in bark crevices. The cycle then starts all over again with 2 generations per year in Contra Costa County’s Bayside areas and 3‐4 inland. The most effective approach is to manage the first generation of the season. Left unmanaged, codling moth can infest up to 90% of the fruit. To reduce the population of this pest without toxic chemicals you can use trapping and sanitation techniques.


    Codling moth pheromone traps (sticky traps laced with pheromone) attract and capture the males. Fewer males make it more difficult for the females to mate. Hang traps starting in mid March (inland areas) to late March (coastal areas) when the emerging adults are expected to start flying. Use one or two per small tree and two to four per large tree and hang them high in the canopy. Codling moth pheromone traps are typically available at hardware stores, garden centers, or online.


    Sanitation should be an integral part of any codling moth control program. Beginning about six to eight weeks after bloom, start checking fruit for sawdust‐like filled holes (larvae entry holes in the fruit). Check every week or two and remove the infested fruit from the tree and the ground. Dispose of it in your yard waste, not your compost pile.

    Sanitation and trapping may be all that is needed when you have an isolated tree and low codling moth populations. But, if populations have been allowed to build up over a number of years (or your neighbors haven’t managed their trees) you may need a more aggressive approach to achieve satisfactory control (and maybe your neighbor’s cooperation).


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