Prepare, Sustain, Thrive and Survive Simply

How to Get Rid of Worms in Apples the Natural Way

When you’re trying to be self-sufficient by growing your own food, the last thing you need is insect infestations. If you want to do something about all the poisons in our food and land, you’ll probably want to learn to manage pests without spraying yet more chemicals into our environment.

Healthy life-filled soil and a polyculture with natural predators are the ideal bug management strategy. But while you’re working on that, unwanted insects may move in to take advantage of system inbalance.

“Beneficial insects might be best viewed as miniature livestock. How do we keep them fed, happy, and reproducing in our farming and greenhouse operations?”

Here is an idea about how to control Codling moth, those pesky little critters that set up housekeeping in your apples. This is copied from a write up by Chrys, a permaculture paradigm jumping  cohort from the Inland (Pacific) Northwest.

Codling Moth in worm hole in an apple

This Codling Moth looks quite cozy in its apple home

Codling moth (Cydia pomonella, a member of the Lepidopteran family Tortricidae), is a major pest of apple, European and Asian pear, walnut, and plum in our region. They are usually the cause of the unappetizing worm holes in fruit.

One effective way to control the damage caused by this pest without using toxic chemical pesticides is the use of the following products, in combination or separately:

Control Codling Moth with Pheromone Traps

Pheromone traps (which you monitor in order to know when the pest is present in your orchard or yard) and Pheromone-releasing mating-disruption “dispensers” that confuse male codling moths and disrupt their mating activity so that fewer eggs get laid in the fruit.

The traps are little reusable plastic tents that hang from branches that contain a replaceable pheromone-releasing rubber plug and replacable sticky paper to catch the moths (there are also single use traps– down with single use). The traps are not what reduce the population of moths. They let you know when it’s time to deploy the pheromone mating disruptors. Often the time to deploy the mating disruption dispensers is at full blossom bloom, so trapping is not such a neccesity for the backyard or small-scale operator. Trapping for monitoring assists larger growers because they can keep their pest control costs down by knowing more about the presence and population of Codling Moth.

Mating Disruptors

The mating disruptors are little plastic spirals that you attach to tree branches.

We should do a cooperative purchase of mating disruptors (and traps, for those who want to monitor). We can distribute the products when we do the tree and plant distribution for the 2015 Cooperative Tree and Plant Order (in April, dates yet to be determined) and they will be in your hands at just the right time for deployment. Over the last 84 years, the average full bloom date in Wenatchee has been April 27. It is later here in the colder Eastern WA region and I suspect the same is true for the Whitefish, MT region.

When to Set the Traps and Pheromone Dispensers

Prior to bud break, codling moth pheromone traps should be placed in the orchard at the rate of five per acre (one in the center and on each corner) or a couple of them for a back yard. When the first codling moth is trapped, pheromone dispensers should be attached to the tree branches. Dispensers should be placed in the orchard at a rate of 400 per acre. It has been found that male and unmated female codling moth activity is greatest in the upper tree canopy, therefore dispensers should be placed in the upper half of the tree for maximum effectiveness. Attach dispensers where they will be shaded in order to minimize photodegredation of the pheromone which results in reduced pheromone release and alteration of the relative concentrations of pheromone components.

You’ll need to change the rubber pheromone dispensers in the traps every 4 weeks (or as recommended by the manufacturer– some replacement plugs last longer, but as with all marketing, my instinct is to stick with the standard 4-week replacement pheromone plug). Change the sticky trap bottoms after catching 30 moths, or every time a plug is changed.

Information about the products described can be found on the following websites:

Plastic Delta Trap (multi-season use)

NoMate Codling Moth Mating Disruption

Biological Control:
Trichogramma minutum (a very small wasp) is a parasitoid of codling moth eggs. It can parasitize a high percentage of eggs in favorable conditions. Trichogramma minutum eggs may be purchased from Sound Horticulture.



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