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The codling moth (Cydia pomonella) is a member of the lepidopteran family Tortricidae. Introduced to North America from its native Europe over 200 years ago, Cydia pomonella is well known as an agricultural pest, the larva being the infamous, common "worm in the apple" of cartoon and vernacular fame. In North America it has become the main cause of damaged apples. The codling moth is found almost worldwide, and also attacks pears, walnuts, quince, crabapples, hawthorn, loquat, almonds, pecans, pomegranates and some stone fruits, mainly apricots.

The adult moth is grey with light grey and copper stripes on its wings, and has an average wingspan of 17 mm. In most regions of the US, the codling moth is has two to three generations each year, and sometimes a partial fourth generation. Females lay eggs on fruit or leaves and the black-headed larvae attack the fruit immediately upon hatching. First generation larvae usually enter the fruit through the blossom (calyx); the later generations bore through the skin of the fruit. The larvae burrow into the core and feed on the seeds, spending three to four weeks growing inside as the fruit rots. Fruit attacked by codling moth caterpillar are not only more susceptible to disease, but also act as vectors to spread rot to other apples on the tree. When mature, the larvae exit the fruit and pupate on the bark of the tree, on the ground or on structures nearby, and emerge as a moth after two-three weeks. The last generation of the year overwinters as a pupa.

Codling moth infestations are often managed with pesticides. To time applications, pheromone traps, which contain synthetic copies of the attractive chemicals female moths use to lure males over for mating, can be used to predict peak flying times and estimate the insects' lifecycle. Sometimes pheromone traps are also used in large quantity to trap and remove all males from the area, preventing the females from laying fertilized eggs. Application of codling moth granulosis virus (CMGV) in a water based formulation at egg hatching is another common and effective treatment. CMGV kills larvae who ingest it by eroding their gut membrane, usually in 7-10 days. Codling moth eggs are also susceptible to parasitism by Trichogramma wasps.

Because of extensive study of this organism’s genome, and because it is relatively easy to rear in the lab, this moth may become a model organism for scientific research on the Tortricidae, a family containing numerous other pest species.

(Bessin 2010; English 2001; Wikipedia 2011)


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