Thursday, August 29, 2013

Putting the D Back in Codling Moth

I was under the impression that there was a bit of irony at work when someone decided to name my most hated garden pest after a word, “coddle”, which means to treat tenderly; pamper even.

Because I can assure you that I do not want to tenderly stroke the slimy looking back of the codling moth larva.  I do not wish to pamper the frass-producing worms.  In fact, when I think about them, I think of them more as the brown and smelly stuff that fills children’s Pampers. 

I despise the codling moth and everything about it, even its name. 

Photo from Wikipedia

But, of course, I was wrong about the name.  There are two “d’s” in coddle and the codling moth has just one “d”.  If I had to guess, I’d say that the codling moth ate that other “d” just like they do everything else.

A not so quick research project of mine (i.e. a few keystrokes on Google and lots and lots of reading about how hard it is to control these buggers) revealed that the moth earned its name after attacking an old varietyof cooking apples called English Codling apples.  

This picture shows the stark contrast between an apple infested and one that will be infested.
Many of the publications I have consulted report that a bad infestation of the codling moth can reduce a crop by 90%.  In the case of my tree, I’d say that’s been pretty close to accurate.  So, this year the codling moths get an A.  I’m hoping next year that I’ll be able to give them that D they’ve been missing and get the destruction down in the 60% range. 

One day's worth of spoiled fruit picked from the tree and lifted from the ground.
Because I’m trying to garden with as few chemicals as possible (and because chemical control in this case depends almost entirely on exactly correct timing) I plan to combat the codling moths in a variety of ways:

First, I’m removing all of this year’s crop.  I will remove the remaining apples, bag them up, and throw them away.  That should decrease the number of moths that overwinter in my yard.

Hungry?  Me neither.  

Second, I’ll try cardboard banding the trunk of the tree.  The larvae will frequently crawl up and hide in the corrugated ridges of the cardboard so you can remove the cardboard after a few days and throw it away too.

I will try hanging a few pheromone traps to kill the moths and disrupt the mating cycle and I think I will move a bird feeder to a neighboring tree since birds are a natural predator of the codling moth. 

I will also try bagging the apples to prevent them from getting attacked in the first place.  It’s going to look strange having a tree with 200 brown paper lunch bags hanging from it but maybe I can try to convince my daughter that it’s not an apple tree, it’s a Lunch Bag Tree.    

If you have any tips or tricks on how you’ve handled codling moths, I’d love to hear them.  I’ve done a lot of reading on this and it seems like a pretty daunting task which is why I’m not aiming for anywhere near total eradication.  

I need a macro lens for my camera but perhaps you can still make out the worm in the middle of the picture.


  1. Thank you for this post. It made me laugh out loud several times.

    1. Thanks Melanie. I tried to keep it lighthearted because I really want to stomp around and throw a hissy fit when I discovered how bad the infestation was this year.

  2. Oh how frustrating but you have a good sense of humor and methods of control....let's hope he gets an F next year and you get the A for Apples.

    1. Donna, I appreciate that. I'll definitely post a progress report next year.