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Codling moth (Cydia pomonella L.)

Adult codling moth

Codling moth egg

Codling moth larva in fruit

Codling moth entrance hole in fruit (‘sting’ injury)

Codling moth is a key pest of apple, which attacks the fruit directly causing economic damage at low population densities. It is sometimes very damaging to pear.

The life cycle involves one complete and one partial generation per year in southern Britain, though two generations occur in hot summers.

First generation adults emerge in May to July and fly at dusk on warm evenings. Eggs are laid singly on leaves and the surface of fruits. Larvae hatch after 7 10 days, depending on temperature, and cause damage by boring into the flesh of the fruit. A characteristic entrance hole is left, partially blocked by dry frass.

This readily recognised  pest should be monitored using pheromone traps, monitored weekly from petal fall until harvest. The threshold is a single catch of 5 or more moths per trap per week from May to June (first generation, fruit less susceptible) and 3 per trap per week from August to Setpember (second generation, fruit more susceptible).


In addition to sanitation measures which help reduce the worst ravages of attack, there are three different approaches for controlling codling moth:

  1. biological control with sprays of the codling moth granulovirus
  2. chemical control with sprays of insecticides which are either ovicidal, larvicidal or both
  3. sex pheromone mating disruption with a grid of Exosex autoconfusion dispensers.

Biological control  

Now that the codling moth granulovirus (Carpovirusine, Cyd-X, Madex Top) is available, it should be used wherever possible, bearing in mind the following limitations:

  • It only controls codling moth and not tortrix moths, Blastobasis or other pests
  • A maximum of ten sprays each (Madex Top) giving 8-14 days protection is allowed per season (a maximum of six sprays per generation)
  • Application should be made just before egg hatch is expected to ensure larvae pick up virus particles as they move from the egg to the apple entry point. Application a little bit too early is preferable to a little bit too late.
  • Heavy attacks may result in some superficial sting injury as the young larvae hatching from eggs do not die immediately.

Chemical control

A chemical control programme should comprise a series of sprays of insecticides at 2-3 week intervals, maintaining an insecticide deposit throughout periods of risk.

  • The interval between sprays should be 2 weeks if temperatures are high or if the risk is high.
  • The choice of insecticides is chlorantraniliprole applied at or shortly before the onset of egg laying, or  indoxacarb (Steward), methoxyfenozide (Runner) or spinosad (Tracer) applied at the onset of egg hatch.
  • Use of synthetic pyrethroid insecticides, which are very effective, should be avoided as they are harmful to predatory mites and many other important natural enemies.
  • The onset of egg laying is when a threshold pheromone trap catch is exceeded.
  • Egg hatch occurs 7-10 days later.
  • The interval between egg laying and egg hatch can be estimated more precisely by accumulating percentage egg development amounts calculated from daily maximum and minimum air temperature.
  • First egg hatch is expected when the accumulated sum reaches 100%.
  • Be vigilant for second generation attacks, which occur in August in hot summers.

Sex pheromone mating disruption  

RAK 3+4 is a combined pheromone control system which reduces fruit damage from codling moth (RAK 3) and summer fruit tortrix (RAK 4). Both pheromones disrupt mating behaviour and therefore prevent populations from developing. The pheromones are released from sealed chambers by volatilisation, preventing male and female moths from locating each other and reproducing.

  • RAK 3+4 is most effective in orchards with a low pest population density. It should not be used in orchards where more than 1% of fruits (including fallen fruits) were damaged by codling and tortrix moths in the preceding year, unless the first generation of moths is treated with a control product to reduce initial populations.
  • Best results are achieved in isolated orchards, i.e. those which are 100 m or more away from other orchards or high trees.
  • Optimum results are also achieved in grouped orchards containing trees of similar size and shape.
  • RAK 3+4 will not be effective if there is a high density of codling moth and/or tortrix moth in the area adjacent to the orchard being treated. It will not be effective in orchards less than 1 ha in area.
  • Further details on time of application, dose and positioning of dispensers.


Products approved for control of codling, tortrix moths or caterpillars on apple

Choice of insecticides – efficacy factors

Active ingredient Trade name (examples) Class1 Selectivity Label rec’s2 Safety to Typhs  Suggested interval between sprays(days)
adoxophyes orana granulovirus Capex microbial biocontrol highly selective sft safe Max = 10 days
Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki Dipel DF bacterial selective c safe 7
chlorantraniliprole Coragen anthranilic diamide selective c safe 14
E8, E10-dodecadienol, Z11-tetradecenylacetate, n-tetradecylacetate RAK 3+4 sex pheromone mating disruption highly selective cm, sft safe none stipulated
codling moth granulovirus Carpovirusine, Cyd-X, Madex Top microbial  biocontrol highly selective cm safe 8 sunny days
deltamethrin Decis pyrethroid broad spectrum cm, t harmful none stipulated
indoxacarb Steward oxadiazine selective c, cm, ftt, sft u 10
methoxyfenozide Runner MAC selective c safe u
spinosad Tracer neural blocker selective C, cm, ftt,sft safe u

Choice of insecticides – Safety factors

Read and follow the label before applying any sprays

Hazards3 Harvest interval(days) Max. no. sprays Buffer zoneWidth (m)
Anticholin-esterase?  Humans Fish & aquatic life Bees
adoxophyes orana granulovirus no u u u 0 4 0
Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki no u u u Varies with product Varies with product 5
chlorantraniliprole no h ed h 14 2 10
E8, E10-dodecadienol, Z11-tetradecenylacetate, n-tetradecylacetate no u t u None stipulated 1 u
codling moth granulovirus no h,i u u Varies with product Varies with product 0
deltamethrin no i,h ed d 7 u 50
indoxacarb no h ed u 7 3 15
methoxyfenozide no u u u 14 3 5
spinosad no u ed u 7 4 40
Keys:     1CSI=chitin synthesis inhibitor, JHA=juvenile hormone analogue MAC= moulting accelerating compound 2c=caterpillars, cm=codling moth, ftt=fruit tree tortrix, sft=summer fruit tortrix,  t=tortrix 3d=dangerous, ed=extremely dangerous, h=harmful, ir=irritant,  t=toxic u=no hazard specified


Control in organic orchards

Organic growers should use multiple codling moth granulovirus sprays (up to 6 applications per generation and not exceeding 10 applications per season for Madex Top) and in combination with season-long maintenance of a pheromone autoconfusion system.

  • Note that Bacillus thuringiensis has little effect on codling moth.
  • Cultural control remains an important additional measure.


 Further reading