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  • What Should I Do?
    Phil Williams

    How to Make a Codling Moth Trap and Lure

    DIY pest control
    by Phil Williams

    Monday, March 14, 2016, 9:52 PM

Last year, a lot of my apple crop and some of my pear crop were infested with codling moth larvae. Given that I don’t spray my trees, I needed to come up with an alternative for control, unless I wanted to grow apples for the moths. This season, I’ve sprayed kaolin clay, which is a tiny clay particle that you spray on to the leaves and the fruit. This acts as an irritant to the pests, causing them to move on. This has worked well so far, as we’ve already had our best cherry harvest yet, and the apples and pears still look pretty clean. The other protection I’ve given my trees is a codling moth trap and lure. These are all homemade and inexpensive.

Molasses Traps Hung in Apple Trees

Molasses Traps Hung in Apple Trees

The purpose of hanging a codling moth trap and lure in your trees is to attract the moths away from your fruit and into the lure, where they drown in the liquid. This coupled with the kaolin clay has worked well to break the codling moth cycle. As I was researching this project, I wasn’t certain what would be the best type of lure and the best type of trap to use. Of course the internet is full of diverging opinions. So, I decided to try slightly different traps and lure recipes to find what worked best for me.  

The Traps

Some people said it was important to have only one hole in the container, and others said it was good to put two holes so the lure can waft through the orchard. Some people swore that painting red around the hole would attract more moths, and others didn’t mention it. So I made traps with and without red, and traps with one hole and with two.

Traps used, drilled and wire strung through

Traps used, drilled and wire strung through

The Lure

I found two recipes to try. One was a simple recipe of 50% water and 50% molasses. The other was 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, ½ cup molasses, 1/8 teaspoon of ammonia, and 4 ½ cups of water. Half of the traps I put out had one or the other recipe. I marked them, so I wouldn’t mix them up.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Molasses Trap

Apple Cider Vinegar and Molasses Trap

How to Make the Traps

  1. Collect plastic containers. Over the winter I saved milk jugs and apple sauce containers.
  2. Wash out the containers.
  3. Cut holes on both sides of the container, to allow the lure to waft through the orchard. Or one side if you prefer, but that won’t waft the attractant as much.
  4. Paint red around the hole or not. It didn’t make a difference for me.
  5. Drill two holes in the neck of the container.
  6. String wire through, and fashion it into a hook. I used sturdy trellis wire that I had left over from my kiwi trellis project.

Holes drilled at neck

Holes drilled at neck

How to Make the Lure

The 50% molasses and 50% water trap was easy. I added the molasses into a big container and then added the water. Then I mixed. I poured the lure into my containers outside, because I did not want to spill sticky molasses. Your kitchen sink would be okay also.  

The alternate recipe was: 1 cup apple cider vinegar, ½ cup molasses, 1/8 teaspoon ammonia (This amount is tiny, very hard to do exactly), 4 ½ cups of water.

Codling Moth Traps

Codling Moth Traps


After a week and a half, I brought the traps in and checked them to see which ones worked well and which ones didn’t. First, they all worked to some varying degree. The containers with red around the openings did NOT catch anymore moths than the ones that did not have red. The containers with two holes did catch slightly more moths than the ones with one hole. The apple cider vinegar and molasses lure did catch more that the straight molasses and water recipe.

Moth in Molasses Solution

Moth in Molasses Solution

So, in my opinion, use the apple cider vinegar and molasses recipe for a lure, and cut holes in both sides of your container. If you feel like painting the openings red, that’s fine, it won’t hurt, but I don’t think it makes a big difference.

Moths in Apple Cider Vinegar and Molasses Solution

Moths in Apple Cider Vinegar and Molasses Solution

~ Phil Williams

Phil Williams is a permaculture consultant and designer and creator of the website  He is also the author of numerous books, most recently, Fire the Landscaper and Farmer Phil's Permaculture. His website provides useful, timely information for the experienced or beginning gardener, landscaper, or permaculturalist. Phil's personal goals are to build soil, restore and regenerate degraded landscapes, grow and raise an abundance of healthy food of great variety, design and install resilient permaculture gardens in the most efficient manner possible, and teach others along the way.

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  • Sat, Mar 19, 2016 - 11:40pm



    Status Gold Member (Offline)

    Joined: Mar 06 2012

    Posts: 571

    Catching more flies with vinegar than with honey (or molasses)

    Thanks for another great article, Phil.  No orchard here, but last fall we did have a fruit fly outbreak in our apartment.  They seemed to get into the soil of some of our house plants.  Coincidentally, this happened at the same time we started composting again, after having stopped for a while after moving.  Now, the compost sits outside, on a ledge below the window, well belayed.

    After take out most of the plants, we found the video below, and followed its recipe for a fruit fly trap.  We mixed apple juice, water, apple cider vinegar, beer, and a few drops of dish soap, so sink the flies once they make contact.  Then we put it in a jar which we then covered in plastic with some holes poked through.  The flies likes the smell much better than my wife did, but it did the trick.  I think the video attributes the attraction of the vinegar due to the fact that fruit flies like fermenting fruit.

    I have seen similar coddling moth traps in The Permaculture Orchard documentary as well.  That's an especially good resource for orchards in colder temperate climates, as Stefan Sobkowiak's orchard is in Quebec.

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  • Wed, Mar 23, 2016 - 6:32pm


    Phil Williams

    Status Bronze Member (Offline)

    Joined: Oct 14 2009

    Posts: 269

    Codling Moth Traps

    Thanks Hugh. I really like The Permaculture Orchard documentary. Excellent for anyone interested in growing fruit trees.

    I'm also going to try mating disrupters this year. Pheromones that make it confusing for codling moth and oriental fruit moth to mate. Supposedly 98% effective. We'll see.


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  • Tue, Dec 13, 2016 - 10:38pm



    Status Member (Offline)

    Joined: Dec 13 2016

    Posts: 1

    Best Ever

    Hey Phil,

    Thank you so much for that! The best I've ever seen.

    Tell me, would it be possible to use the video on our website in one of our recent post about Codling Moths?

    It would be specifically placed in this article
    Credit will be attributed to your website. Please let me know. Regards

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