Codling moths can pose a threat to your spring garden

The codling moth is an unwanted visitor in the garden. Picture: Shutterstock.
The codling moth is an unwanted visitor in the garden. Picture: Shutterstock.

Spring is one of the most popular seasons and it is easy to see why.

Nature is about to put on her dazzling best, but there is always someone who wants to rain on the parade. With the promise of new growth comes a swag of pests just itching to sink their teeth, albeit mandibles, into the new growth or developing fruits of many ornamental plants.

If you value quality apples, pears, quinces and crab apples, codling moth are your worst enemy.

Codling moths are small greyish-brown moths that lay their eggs on the leaves of apple and pear trees, usually near the developing fruit. The grub of the codling moth tunnel into the fruit, either on the side of the fruit or where the stem emerges.

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There may be a tell-tale lump of "frass", a collection of grub droppings, on the skin of developing fruit that looks like sawdust. Or if the grub has entered near the stem and eaten into the core, there may not be any sign until you cut open the fruit to find a grub inside.

Controlling codling moth involves several strategies.

Garden hygiene will help reduce numbers, so trees should be inspected regularly and remove any flaky bark or leaf debris from around the base. These are perfect hiding places for developing pupae, which will hatch in spring as the weather warms.

Trace of a codling moth boring a hole in an apple. Picture: Shutterstock.

Trace of a codling moth boring a hole in an apple. Picture: Shutterstock.

Using caterpillar killer, bacillus thurengiensis, regularly after flowering will help control the larvae, repeat applications will be necessary.

There can be several generations of codling moth between flowering and harvest, hence the need for regular spraying. Male moths can be trapped by hanging pheromone lure traps in the tree.

Alternatively, make traps by drilling a few holes in the side of plastic bottles two centimetres up from the base and add some port or sherry to attract male moths, inspect and renew traps every few weeks.

Codling moths have a number of natural enemies, including a range of micro wasps, lacewings, beetles, ants, spiders and ladybirds, as well as frogs and birds.

Make your garden diverse with a range of flowering plants to attract these beneficials to help keep codling moths and other pest numbers in check. Allowing poultry to forage under fruit trees is another way of keeping the moth under control.

It's all happening in the garden as spring kicks off, so get your fingers dirty and find your mojo in the garden this weekend.

  • John Gabriele is a horticulture teacher with a love for green spaces.
This story Codling moths: garden visitors that are not so welcome this spring first appeared on The Canberra Times.