Chowing down on an apple that’s been plucked straight from the tree is always an enjoyable experience, what can detract somewhat though is discovering that something else has been enjoying that apple well before you got to it.
Codling moth, along with fruit fly, are the two biggest insect pests that the home fruit gardener will have to deal with. Thankfully though because we have such a small area to maintain, keeping these pests to a minimum is quite easy.
New advances in organic, or at least low chemical, control methods means that we home fruit growers can help control a pest that costs our orchardists a small fortune to destroy.
Before you go spraying though it’s important to keep your orchard tidy. Remove anywhere that the moths can place their cocoons especially around the base of the trees. Bricks with hollows, split logs, loose bark and old boxes are just some of the places that you’ll find cocoons.
Then we have natural control methods. Earwigs, spiders, wasps and ants all eat either the moth themselves, or their eggs. You can buy hatching kits for the Trichogramma micro wasp which parasitises the moth eggs. The wasp larva feed on the moth eggs.
If you can do it, get your chooks to forage underneath the trees as well. All of this will help break the breeding cycle, but you can also trap those that get away.
Fill an open jar with baits including fermented apple juice, molasses or oil of cloves. Experiment with any fruity, sticky substances you like. Just add a film of vegetable oil on top to trap them in. As the bait matures, it will trap more moths. Replace them every two weeks.
You can also set light traps using an efficient led light hanging above a tub of water topped with a film of kerosene.
Wrapping corrugated cardboard around the base of the tree will give the caterpillars somewhere to pupate, pity that every two or three weeks you’ll remove them and destroy the cocoons.
Pheremone traps, like the one shown, disrupt the mating process by attracting some of the male moths onto their sticky surfaces. They do help reduce the number of females producing fertile eggs and also allow you to monitor how your other control methods are going.
If you notice a large number of moths on your lure, you should now consider spraying your trees. Pyrethrum, the least toxic of all commercial sprays, effectively kills the caterpillars before they enter the fruit and can also kill the adult moths. Spray under the leaves and in any cracks in the bark.
Pest oil will smother any eggs and Bt spray will control the caterpillars however you have to time it perfectly and Bt sprays aren’t terribly friendly to bees.
No one control method will do it all, you need to hit them with the full arsenal.