All-Natural Fruit Tree Bait for Insects: It Works!

By Amy September 3, 2019 05:27

All-Natural Fruit Tree Bait for Insects: It Works!

We planted a small orchard on our place about ten years ago and were delighted when it started to produce fruit a few years ago. Our delight quickly turned to dismay, however, when–after a year or two–we discovered that much of the fruit was wormy!

We found that most of the damage was the work of the common and infamous codling moth, admittedly a rather attractive moth, but not one that you want to hang around your place. Or befoul and completely ruin your hard-won orchard apples.

All-Natural Fruit Tree Bait for Insects It Works!The codling moth (Cydia Pomonella) is a pest that is common all over the world, though it was native to Europe originally.  The larva of the moth is the common apple worm or maggot. The little bugger will also attack pears, walnuts, and other tree fruits.

Spraying fruit trees with a chemical spray several times throughout the growing season is generally believed to be the only way to repel the insects that do so much damage to the fruit in our area. I actually bought some spray a few years ago, but I never could bring myself to use it. I try to stay away from chemical sprays whenever possible, and just reading the warnings on the back of the bottle scared me away from using it:

Hazards to humans and domestic animals! Causes substantial but temporary eye injury. Causes skin irritation. Harmful if inhaled or swallowed. Do not get in eyes, on skin or on clothing. . . Bee caution: May kill honeybees or other bees. This product is very toxic to honeybees!

Yikes!  That’s not all. The warnings go on for some time, but that was enough for me to put the bottle of spray aside and think hard about whether I wanted to risk it or not. I never did pick it up again(I love our honeybees!).

We spend quite a bit of time and energy trying to keep our honeybees healthy and to attract songbirds to our place: I wouldn’t want to do anything that would harm them or drive them away. And of course my beautiful chickens have the run of our place most of the time. I have oodles of good reasons to avoid using chemical insect controls on our place. Oodles!!

All-Natural Fruit Tree Bait for Insects It Works!However, it’s not much fun to eat wormy fruit. Happily, a couple of years ago, I discovered a natural way to keep the nasty bugs away from my fruit that is very easy to do.

It’s very simple; it doesn’t cost much; it won’t hurt your songbirds, your children, your dog or your honeybees. And it has been very effective in my own orchard, even last year which was unusually hot and dry and buggy.

Related: How To Plant Your Orchard To Have Fruits All Year Round

If you have fruit trees and are put off by the chemical spray route, and if the codling moth or other insects have made your fruit nearly impossible to enjoy, you may want to try this too.

Here are the things you’ll need, for each tree you have:

  • Gallon-size plastic jug (milk jugs are good, vinegar jugs–which are tougher–are even better);
  • Sturdy twine or rope;
  • a sharp knife or sturdy pair of scissors;
  • 1 cup white vinegar;
  • 1 cup sugar;
  • 3/4 cup water;
  • 2 banana peels, cut in strips (I’ve substituted other fruit peels when we didn’t have bananas in the house, and they seemed to work just as well).

And here’s how you do it:

All-Natural Fruit Tree Bait for Insects It Works!

#1. Slice off a third of the top of the gallon jug (leave the handle intact) and punch a few holes along the top edge. Thread a 2′(ish) length of twine through handle and holes.

#2. Mix together the sugar and vinegar, and put into the jug. Add the banana strips.

#3. Add the water to the solution and stir vigorously.

#4. Hang the jug in your fruit tree.

#5. Check the jug every day or two for moths, and replace with new solution when necessary. If you have codling moths in your area (and you probably do), when they are most active your solution will be positively full of dead moths. It’s pretty thrilling, really. If the jugs fill up with moths too quickly, I’ll double the recipe so I don’t have to change the solution so often. I have other things going on too, after all.

Three years ago when I hung these jugs in my orchard for the first time, I must have hit the timing just right, because the next day when I went out to check on the jugs, every single one was so full of dead moths that I couldn’t even see the solution. I delightedly dumped them all into the compost pile and refilled them with new solution. I had to do this a few times during the first week or two, but my apples that year were nearly free of moth damage and worms.

All-Natural Fruit Tree Bait for Insects It Works!It took just a little bit of time and attention, but the rewards were huge! Having all those lovely apples was even more thrilling than finding all the dead moths in the traps!

If you want to try this for yourself, it’s important to get those jugs full of solution into your fruit trees before they bloom, or at least as the blooms are opening, as that’s when the codling moth seems to begin laying eggs. What happens is that the moth is attracted to the vinegar-sugar solution with the fruit peels, and then drowns in it, thus not laying its eggs on the leaves and blossoms of the fruit tree.

We install the jugs in our orchard trees each spring, and I’m checking them every day or two for moths. My trees are always blossoming beautifully and I’m looking forward to lots of delicious, chemical-free fruit!

So now, Gentle Reader, if you have fruit trees and have been perplexed by the damage of coddling moths or other baffling insects in the past . . . well. . . now you know what to do!

Editor’s note: This article was gladly contributed by Amy and first appeared on

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By Amy September 3, 2019 05:27
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  1. JKS September 3, 14:40

    Thank you for this! Cant use it yet as I just planted my apple trees so will be a couple years before a harvest. I was wondering what to do when the inevitable issues come up. I have dwarf apple trees at my last place and lost my first harvest to birds? How to deal with that? Thanks again.

    Reply to this comment
    • n/a September 3, 17:05

      We find that aluminum pie pans hanging in the trees keep the birds away also deer as the wind blows they are kept away…. It doesn’t take much of a breeze to get the pans moving… Use string to attach the pans to the trees…..

      Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck September 3, 17:48

        We tried that with CD discs. Apparently SoCal birds are Hollywood struck because they took selfies of themselves eating the fruit reflected in the CDs.

        Seriously, my persimmon trees looked like a Christmas tree with old CDs from the internet company that used to send out CDs about three times a week. How fleeting fame — I can’t even remember their name now and they dominated the e-mail field for several years. Alas, the birds still came and ate the persimmons.

        CDs also make good, cheap signaling mirrors for heliogram signaling.

        Reply to this comment
        • TheSouthernNationalist September 10, 11:13

          LCC, what species is your persimmon tree?
          Is it a Chinese persimmon or American?
          I’m in NC and I have the American species which produces smaller fruit about the size of a golf ball.

          Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck September 3, 17:42

      If you have someone to help you, your local nursery sells netting that can be placed over the tree. You can do it by yourself if you are young and spry. If you are old and crotchety like me, you need someone to help you. The one inch squares are easier to put on but allow small birds to get through them. Get the 1/2 inch squares netting. You can harvest under the netting. Leave it on until your great is all gone.

      Reply to this comment
      • LK September 3, 19:05

        I had a bird get caught in this netting, so will never use it again! It almost lost it’s foot due to twisting of mesh. If you want to use a barrier, use white garden cloth AFTER blossoming has been completed. Just drape a piece over the tree with weights on 4 corners. Same white cloth used to keep lettuce cool works on dwarf fruit trees. They get enough sunlight too. I still found a thin coating of edible Bentonite clay solution AFTER blossoms are complete, to be the best.

        Reply to this comment
  2. Gurmpus McGick September 3, 15:34

    Thank you! I’m keeping this info, and I’m going to try it, with my peaches, next spring!

    Reply to this comment
  3. FrankO September 3, 15:38

    Very informative! Thank you! I just planted some fruit trees, (just starting). I do not wish to use chemicals that will harm anything, especially bees, as you said. A lot of people don’t realize how beneficial bees are. I look forward to trying this method. Thanx again!

    Reply to this comment
  4. LK September 3, 17:56

    I used a solution of edible bentonite clay, thin enough to spray. After fruit fruit began to form I sprayed the tree lightly and the fruit enough to cover. It kept ALL pests away, birds and insects. It also keeps fruit cooler by a few degrees, which helps ward off other issues. Needed to respray after heavy rains, basically every few weeks. Have dwarf peach and plum trees. Worked very well! Leaves don’t get eaten either! This solution lets plenty of sunlight in for proper growth and health.

    Reply to this comment
  5. CLP September 3, 18:34

    Will this work on tomatoes also?

    Reply to this comment
  6. G8torz September 3, 22:52

    This also works to keep wax moths out of your honey bee hives.

    Reply to this comment
    • Clergylady September 4, 13:30

      Nearly all my tree frhot a are new this year. I have a thicket of wild plums and wild cherries that are older and a beat up apple tree I planted nearly 40 years ago. Neighbors horses to bed browsing on it and kept getting in here to chew on it. Full sized tree is still alive. But it’s more a 6ft tall bush. Its covered in apples this year. Probably 1 of every 5 is wormy. Ill have to try this. Its simple enough.

      Reply to this comment
  7. reb September 4, 00:30

    If the moths are being killed by drowning in the vinegar solution, then why do you need the banana strips?

    Reply to this comment
    • Ken September 4, 12:47

      copied from the article, “What happens is that the moth is attracted to the vinegar-sugar solution with the fruit peels, and then drowns in it, thus not laying its eggs on the leaves and blossoms of the fruit tree”. It would seam as if the banana peel helps attract the vermin. They also said they have used other fruit peels with good success, my guess is so would the meat of the fruit, not just the skin

      Reply to this comment
  8. Scooter September 4, 11:43

    Equal parts molasses and vinegar also works. Many years ago we used this for our peach and apricot trees with great results.

    Reply to this comment
  9. TLS September 4, 12:21

    Any suggestions for protecting wild plums from birds?

    Reply to this comment
  10. Clergylady September 4, 13:32

    Ill have to try this. Its simple enough. Thanks

    Reply to this comment
  11. Yosemite September 4, 17:36

    Any suggestions for Citrus and fig tree unwanted insets or other such type pests?

    Reply to this comment
  12. Annie September 4, 23:46

    Any ideas about what to do about Japanese beetles on a dwarf peach tree?

    Reply to this comment
  13. red September 5, 02:40

    What’s gross? Biting into an apple and finding a worm. What’s grosser than gross? Biting into an apple and finding half a worm. Old-timers never left fallen fruit lay long. It was picked and used for cider or thrown to the livestock. This is also true of fallen leaves, which can carry fungal and bacterial disease into a new growing season. Most livestock love the taste of the leaves, even after they fall (and the tree bark, so coat the trees with a lime made for the tree, and kill a lot of borers, as well). Even a small flock of chickens or turkeys will help, but I like the idea of the bait, to stop most of it before it starts. Thank you, very good read! niio

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