When to Spray Apple Trees for Codling Moths

Spray pesticide to kill codling moths once the petals have fallen off the apple tree blossoms. Then, spray again 7–10 days after the first application. It is essential to wait until the petals have fallen off the blossoms to avoid killing bees that pollinate your apple trees. The exact timing of this spray application depends on your local region. On the west coast of the United States, your first spray application may be as early as mid-March, while in regions of the Midwest or Northeast the ideal time for the first spray may be as late as May.

When to spray apple trees for codling moth

How Can You Identify Codling Moth Damage to Apples?

The first sign of a codling moth infestation affecting your apple trees is typically the presence of “stings” on the outside of your developing apples. These stings are small, reddish-brown bumps on the exterior of the apple. If you scrape away the bump, you will see a small hole. This is where the codling moth larva have begun to eat their way into the apple. If codling moths are not controlled, their larva will worm their way into as many apples as possible, causing them to eventually rot.

  • Red-brown bumps 1/16-inch (1.5 mm) in diameter on the outside of developing apples.
  • Small holes present in the apple when the red-brown bump is scraped away.
  • White or light brown worms with dark heads.

You may also spot the codling moth larvae themselves. These caterpillars are tan-colored worms with dark brown heads. These larvae are the most notorious apple pests worldwide. If left unchecked, they will eat up to 90% of the interior of the apple. Preventative pesticide sprayed at petal-drop will often prevent this infestation, but if your apples are being attacked you’ll need to make follow-up spray applications.

What is the Best Spray for Codling Moth Infestations?

The best pesticidal spray for codling moths is Carbaryl, commonly sold under the brand name Sevin. It is one of the strongest options for wiping out codling moths, but has the unfortunate downside of harming other insects species (including bees and other pollinators). While it is a very effective solution for codling moth control, it should only be used after the petals have fallen off your apple tree’s blossoms. Spraying too early will kill the bees and other pollinators that are drawn to the apple tree blossoms.

  • This Carbaryl-based pesticide is the most powerful option for killing codling moths.
  • Pheromone traps are an effective way to attract and kill codling moths before they reproduce.
  • Certified organic products containing codling moth granulosis virus kill apple-eating larvae.

If you prefer to avoid using pesticide sprays, there are several other options for codling moth control. Pheromone traps are increasingly popular. These devices lure male codling moths into the trap where they die, preventing codling moths from breeding. Another option is to use a product that contains codling moth granulosis virus. This virus specifically attacks codling moth larva, killing the worms that attack apples. As an added bonus, this virus is not harmful to humans or other animals.

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What is the Best Codling Moth Spray for Home Orchards?

If you are growing apples in a yard or small orchard, you can combine Carbaryl treatments with other measures to control codling moths. Paper traps are great for home growers. Simply hang a codling moth trap in your apple tree in spring, just before the tree blooms. The trap will attract and kill male codling moths. By killing the moths before they mate, you reduce the codling moth population and protect your apples.

  • Hang this codling moth trap in your tree in spring to attract and kill male moths.
  • Use a Carbaryl spray once the petals have fallen off apple blooms to kill codling moth larva.
  • Try this Spinosad spray for killing any codling moth larva that attack your apples.
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Another powerful option for killing codling moths is spinosad. This product is made from a naturally occurring bacteria that kills codling moth larva. If you have observed codling moth “stings” on your apples, make three applications of spinosad, spaced 10 days apart. This method is used by certified organic growers to kill codling moths and save apple harvests.

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What’s the Best Codling Moth Spray for Large Orchards?

An automated pheromone trap system is one of the best ways to control codling moth infestation in commercial orchards. The latest generation of pheromone traps uses time and temperature sensors to release pheromones only when codling moths are breeding. Male moths are then lured to the traps to die.

  • This pheromone trap by Suterra is the top choice for large-scale apple growers.
  • Automated pheromone traps only activate when conditions are right for codling moth mating.
  • Using codling moth traps can wipe out or prevent infestations without the need for chemical pesticides.

Because pheromone traps are automated, they eliminate the need to spray an orchard with pesticides. Simply hang pheromone traps in spring and allow them to work once conditions are ideal for codling moth activity.

Can You Use Neem Oil for Codling Moth Control in Orchards?

Neem oil is only marginally effective at killing codling moths and their larva. Once a female moth lays her eggs on an apple, the most effective treatments are those designed to kill the larva that emerge from codling moth eggs and burrow into apples. Because neem oil must coat the insect to suffocate and kill it, it’s not good at wiping out codling moth larva. The worms are simply too well-protected by the apple for the neem oil to do much good.

  • Neem oil is only slightly effective at killing codling moths.
  • An insect must be coated with neem oil to kill it—this can be difficult when attacking burrowing codling moth larva.
  • Use spinosad bacteria or codling moth granulosis virus products to kill moths organically.

Instead of neem oil, consider other organic treatments for your moth infestation. Both spinosad products and those containing codling moth granulosis virus are certified organic. Plus, they’re more effective than neem oil. When an apple tree is treated with one of these products, the moth larva ingests the bacteria or virus, which kills them quickly.

When Should You Set Your Codling Moth Trap Around Apple Trees?

Hang codling moth pheromone traps in spring, just before your apple trees blossom. This timing is precisely when adult moths begin breeding and will create a new generation of moth larvae. By hanging traps early in spring, you attract and kill moths before they can destroy your apple crop.

What is the Best Time to Spray Apple Trees for Codling Moth?

When treating apple trees for codling moth infection, the best course of action is to:

  • Hang pheromone traps just before your apple trees blossom.
  • Spray chemical pesticides once apple blossoms have lost their petals.
  • Treat active infestations with pesticide, bacterial, or viral products if you notice codling moth “stings” on growing apples.

By beginning early by setting traps, you will kill adult moths and reduce the size of future moth generations. Then, it’s essential to leave your trees untouched as they bloom—spraying pesticides at this time can kill essential pollinators. By using a combination of tactics, you can end codling moth infestations in any size apple orchard.

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