How To Control Fruitworms – Getting Rid Of Fruitworms Naturally

How To Control Fruitworms – Getting Rid Of Fruitworms Naturally

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By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

There are several types of fruitworms, which are the larvae of different moth species in the genus Lepidoptera. The larvae are pests of fruit trees and usually present as thick green caterpillars. Fruitworms live in their host trees and cause damage to new growth, leaves, flowers and fruit. The damage is usually discovered when it is too late for fruitworm control. Learn how to control fruitworms to prevent this damage and scarring on your home fruit crop.

Green Worms on Fruit

Gardeners must closely monitor fruit trees to ensure that any number of pests do not infest them. Visual inspections during early to mid-spring may yield green worms on fruit. There is only one generation per year, but the larvae pupate and overwinter in the ground to emerge and feed when tender shoots and buds appear.

The green worms on fruit may be armyworms or climbing cutworms depending on their behavior.

  • Armyworms move in large groups to ideal feeding areas and cause widespread damage.
  • Cutworms begin feeding on the roots of young plants and migrate to the branches of trees as new shoots appear.

Green fruitworms are the most common, but there are several other types of fruitworms.

Other Types of Fruitworms

Among these pests are numerous types of fruitworms, which are found across the country. In the family Noctuidae, there are also pyramidal and speckled fruitworms. The eggs are a fraction of an inch (2.5 cm.) and the adult moth lays them on the stems and leaves of host trees.

Speckled fruitworms are over an inch (2.5 cm.) long with stripes and dots along the length of the body.

The pyramidal larvae start out cream colored and turn green after the first life cycle. They then sport five strips and a hump on the dorsal end.

The common green fruitworm is a little smaller than the other species and starts out cream, then turns yellow and finally light green.

Damage from Fruitworms

The larvae feed on a variety of deciduous plants and widely infest cherry, pear and apple trees. Fruitworm feeding does not seriously affect the health of trees, but they can compromise the quality and amount of harvest.

Their feeding activities on buds result in flower drop and any later feeding can cause early abortion of the growing fruit. Fruits that make it to harvest are distorted and have cork-like scars.

Inspection and manual management is generally enough fruitworm control for the gardener with only a few plants.

How to Control Fruitworms

Fruitworm control starts with careful monitoring. You can hand pick the larvae off small trees. Removing the larvae early will prevent later generations. Watch for damage to terminal shoots and bud injury. Small fruits that are forming may have scars and brown scabs, which indicate fruitworm feeding.

Getting rid of fruitworms naturally is preferred on plants with edible crops. You can reduce the population of adults with sticky traps. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has shown to be moderately effective for getting rid of fruitworms naturally. There are other biological controls, such as certain wasps and nematodes, which are only practical in minor infestations.

If the pests consistently plague you, uses an insecticide coded for codling moths and apply at bud stage and again after petal fall.

This article was last updated on

Read more about General Fruit Care

How to Get Rid Of Tomato Fruitworm: All the Advice You Need Now

One of the most aggravating things most farmers face is seeing a promising crop being ruined by pests. With tomatoes, the common one is fruitworms which lay their eggs on the plants, and it’s the larvae which usually land in the tomato fruit.

It’s while in there that they feed, develop to maturity, and then destroy the juicy insides afterwards. This is why you urgently need to know how to get rid of tomato fruitworm before these worms ruin your hard work by having their larvae spoil the tomatoes.

The larvae, which is basically the worm, often attacks the tomato fruit the moment it sets, right before it ripens. If your garden has been infested by these worms and are looking for a solution, this article is for you.


Green fruitworm populations in an orchard are usually spotty often they occur near borders where windbreaks and other trees serve as sources of infestation. Generally this is a minor pest of pears monitor during the cluster sample at bloom.

Organically Acceptable Methods

Sprays of Bacillus thuringiensis and the Entrust formulation of spinosad are organically acceptable.

Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

Because populations of green fruitworm are often spotty within an orchard, look for its presence when taking the cluster sample at bloom. Examine 100 flower clusters from the tops and eye level of trees located throughout the orchard. If any green fruitworm larvae are found, a treatment may be necessary. For more information on monitoring pests at this time, see SAMPLING AT BLOOM.

Common name Amount to use** REI‡ PHI‡
(Example trade name) (conc.) (dilute) (hours) (days)
Pesticide precautions Protect water Calculate VOCs Protect bees
Not all registered pesticides are listed. The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest IPM value listed first—the most effective and least harmful to natural enemies, honey bees, and the environment are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to air and water quality, resistance management, and the pesticide's properties and application timing. Always read the label of the product being used.
(various products) Label rates 4 0
COMMENTS: Least harmful to beneficials. Must be applied when worms are small. Apply starting at cluster bud to start of bloom. A second application may be required 7-10 days after the first. Occasionally a third treatment may be required. Most effective if applied when weather forecasts predict 3 to 4 days of warm, dry weather. Larvae are more active and feed more in warm weather than in cooler or rainy weather.
(Intrepid 2F) 16 fl oz 4 14
COMMENTS: Treat at early egg hatch. Spray coverage is extremely important. Ground application should use 200 gal water/acre with a sprayer speed of 1.5 mph. The addition of a spray adjuvant is recommended to enhance spray coverage.
(Entrust)# 2–3 oz 0.5–0.75 oz 4 7
(Success) 6–10 fl oz 2–3.3 fl oz 4 7
COMMENTS: To prevent the development of resistance to this product, rotate to a material with a different Group number after treating two consecutive generations. Residual efficacy is affected by pH but initial efficacy is not verify that water pH is greater than 6 and less than 8.
(Altacor) 3–4.5 oz 4 5
COMMENTS: Do not apply dilute applications of more than 200 gal/acre use 100–150 gal/acre for best results.
(Delegate WG) 4.5–7 oz 4 7
COMMENTS: Residual efficacy is affected by pH but initial efficacy is not verify that water pH is greater than 6 and less than 8.
** Dilute rate is the rate per 100 gal water use 400 gal solution per acre. Apply concentrate in 80–100 gal water/acre, or less if the label allows.
Restricted entry interval (REI) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (PHI) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
# Acceptable for organically grown produce.
Not recommended or not on label.
1 Rotate chemicals with a different mode of action Group number, and do not use products with the same mode of action Group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a Group number of 1B chemicals with a 1B Group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a Group number other than 1B. Mode of action Group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee).

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Pear
UC ANR Publication 3455

L.G. Varela, UC IPM and UC Cooperative Extension Sonoma County

R.B. Elkins, UC Cooperative Extension Lake County

R.A. Van Steenwyk (emeritus), Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley

C.A. Ingels, UC Cooperative Extension Sacramento County

Acknowledgement for Contributions to Insects, Mites, and Other Invertebrates

P.W. Weddle, Weddle, Hansen & Associates

P. Chevalier, United Ag Products, Ukiah

R. Hansen, Weddle, Hansen & Associates

M. Hooper, Ag Unlimited, Lakeport

B. Knispel, Pest Control Adviser, Upper Lake

T. Lidyoff, Purity Products, Healdsburg

G. McCosker, Harvey Lyman Ag Services, Walnut Grove

B. Oldham, Ag Unlimited, Ukiah

C. Pickel (emeritus), UC IPM and UC Cooperative Extension Sutter and Yuba counties

J. Sisevich, AgroTech, Kelseyville

D. Smith, Western Farm Service, Walnut Grove

B. Zoller, The Pear Doctor, Inc., Kelseyville

Worms in Cherries? Prevent them now!

In the past several years there have been an increasing number of these insects damaging our

precious cherries! Treatment has to be done weeks ahead of time to

stop the damage otherwise the insecticide will not be able to reach the worms inside the fruit.

What is it?
Western Cherry Fruit Fly

What does it do?
In May, as the cherries begin to turn color the flies begin mating and laying their eggs. These eggs are inserted and deposited inside ripening fruit leaving very little evidence of the fact. That is why when we go to pick and eat the cherries there are worms inside!

What do I do?

For the homeowner, monitoring and spraying is the simplest thing to do. As soon as cherries begin to color, put out Pest Wizard Deciduous Fruit Fly traps to monitor when the flies are present. This step can be eliminated and you can just begin spraying as the fruit begins to color but I always spray (even organic sprays) as little as possible so you can wait until you find adult flies to reduce the number of applications.

There are a few different things you can spray but I recommend Monterey Garden Insect Spray. The active ingredient, Spinosad is not as toxic as Malathion or Sevin yet effective on certain insects. It is also OMRI listed! Begin spraying as soon as you see the adult flies on the traps or as the cherry begin to turn color. Spray once per week until harvest.

So it is simple, just a matter of being prepared. Hope this helps!

Corn Earworm and Tomato Fruitworm Control

The corn earworm—which is also known as the tomato fruitworm and the cotton bollworm—is a caterpillar that eats the fruit and leaves of corn, tomatoes, beans, peppers, squash, lettuce, peas, potatoes, and other crops.

Corn earworms follow corn silks into the tips of husks and chew their way through the kernels. As tomato fruitworms they bore into the stem ends of tomatoes and peppers and tunnel into bean pods and lettuce heads. Besides chewing crops they leave behind excrement which hosts mold and pathways for rot organisms to follow. At their least destructive, corn earworms chew leaves and buds leaving plants disfigured and stunted. By eating corn silks they inhibit pollination.

Handpicking, insect traps, and drops of suffocating mineral or vegetable oil are the least invasive controls for corn earworms. Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis, or a dusting of Sevin will slow heavy infestations.

The corn earworm, Heliothis zea, is the larvae of a night flying moth. Neither the earworm nor the moth is easy to spot they live and eat mostly out of sight.

Corn earworms life cycle. There are commonly four generations of corn earworms each year, more in regions where the summer is long and the winter mild. The corn earworm pupa passes the winter in the soil of mild winter regions. The moth emerges from the pupa in spring and lay eggs on plants. Earworm caterpillars emerge from the eggs and feed on foliage and fruits for about four weeks then the larvae drop to the soil and pupate. After a brief rest, the second generation emerges. Adult moths are carried on the wind to regions north of where they emerge from pupa in winter. The pupa does not survive in cold winter regions.

Description of adults. The adult corn earworm is a night-flying moth with bright green eyes and brownish or olive wings. The moth has a wingspan of 1½ inches with a dark blackish spot at the center of each fore wing. The moth lays single eggs on the underside of leaves. Moths lay eggs daily over the course of their lifespan.

Eggs. The moth lays single eggs on the undersides of plant leaves or tips of corn ears. Eggs are light brown or yellow, domed, and ridged. The eggs hatch in three days.

Larvae. The corn earworm is a yellowish to green and sometimes red caterpillar with a yellow-brown head and four pairs of prolegs. It can grow to two inches long and has lengthwise stripes and short spines or bristles on its body. The earworm chews on buds and eats large ragged holes out of tender, unfolding leaves. The caterpillar burrows into tomatoes and peppers, into lettuce heads, and move down ears of corn eating kernels. The larvae feed for two to four weeks then drop to the ground and pupate in the soil. Adults emerge in 10 to 25 days.

Detection. The best way to detect adult moths is to set floral lure traps. To detect larvae inspect leaves for damage or fruits and pods for signs of tunneling.

Corn earworm controls:

• Attract predators. Plant small flowered perennials such as dill, parsley, and yarrow and annuals such as alyssum around the garden to attract parasitic wasps which parasitize earworm eggs. The Tachnid fly is also an earworm predator.

• Plant early. Plant early and early-maturing varieties of corn and tomatoes. Adult earworm moths will not arrive or emerge until the weather has warmed, by then early planted crops will be maturing and not suffer significant earworm damage as the pest population peaks.

• Resistant varieties. Plant corn varieties with tight husks or husks that extend well beyond the tops of the ears earworm resistant corn varieties include Sliver Cross Bantam and Silvergent.

• Traps. Use insect traps with a floral lure to attract and trap moths.

• Handpick. Handpick earworms from plant leaves and fruits. Drown the worms in soapy water.

• Block entry. Earworms enter corn ears along the silks. Block earworms from entering by wrapping a rubber band and clamping a clothespin around the tips of husks.

• Suffocate with oil. When corn silks begin to turn brown, earworms start to crawl down the silks into the ears. Use an eyedropper to apply five drops of mineral or vegetable oil to the silks of each ear. The oil will smother the earworms. Do not apply the oil too early or it will interfere with pollination and result in poor kernel development. The oil will not affect the taste of the kernels.

• Kaolin clay spray. Spray fruiting plants with kaolin clay to discourage moths from egg-laying. Kaolin clay coats plant leaves and fruit and disorients and repels pests but does not interfere with photosynthesis. Wash away the clay before eating fruit or pods. Don’t use kaolin clay on lettuce or leafy crops.

• Sevin. Dust corn silks with Sevin, an insecticide containing carbaryl. Treat when silks first emerge and continue to treat every three to five days until the silks turn brown.

• Bt and Spinosad. Spray small caterpillars with Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis, a pathogenic bacterium (safe to man). Spinosad (a bacterium-based insecticide) can also control earworms.


How to Identify Tomato Hornworms

Hornworms can be up to 5 inches long—which can be quite a shock when you first come across one! They do the most damage in the caterpillar—or larval—stage. They are pale green with white and black markings, plus a horn-like protrusion stemming from their rear. (Don’t worry, they aren’t able to sting or bite!) The caterpillar also has eight V-shaped stripes on its green body. Tomato hornworms come from a mottled brown-gray moth (see picture, above).

The larvae blend in really well with the plant greenery. Just get used to a daily patrol, looking for hornworm eggs and small caterpillars. Here are some cues of infestations:

  • Hornworms tend to start feeding from the top of the plant look for chewed or missing leaves.
  • Look closely at the TOP of your tomato leaves for dark green or black droppings left by the larvae feeding on the leaves. Then look at the underside of leaves and you’ll likely find a hornworm.
  • Look for stems missing some leaves and wilted leaves hanging down. You may find white cocoons and their hornworm hosts nearby.

Tomato hornworm

Tomato vs. Tobacco Hornworms

There are a few species of hornworms that inhabit North American gardens, including tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) and tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta). Both species feed on common garden plants like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Here’s how to tell which caterpillar is which:

  • Tobacco hornworms have parallel white stripes tomato hornworms have white V–shaped markings.
  • Tobacco hornworms have black spots lining each of their stripes tomato hornworms do not.
  • Tobacco hornworms have a red “horn” on their tail end tomato hornworms have a black horn.

Can you tell which hornworm this is? (It’s a tobacco hornworm! Notice the white stripes with dotted black lines and a red “horn.”)

Tomato Hornworm Damage

If you see leaves with large holes and severe defoliation, devoured flowers, and/or scarring on fruit surfaces, you might have tomato or tobacco hornworms. The fruit also may be damaged by sunscald because of the reduced foliage cover.

How to Manage Pests


Green Fruitworm

Scientific Names: Orthosia hibisci, Amphipyra pyramidoides, Xylomyges curialis, and others

(Reviewed 10/14 , updated 10/14 )


Larvae are pale green caterpillars, often with whitish stripes down each side of the body and a narrow stripe down the middle of the back. The adult of one common species is a grayish moth with a 1-inch wingspan. Most species overwinter as adults and have one generation each year.


Green fruitworms eat large holes in young leaves and fruit.


Dormant treatments and bloomtime applications for other pests help keep fruitworm numbers under control. However, regular monitoring each season is important so that prompt action can be taken if damaging levels develop.

Biological Control

Certain parasitic wasps (Cotesia (=Apanteles) ,Eulophus, Meteorus, and Ophion spp.) help keep green fruitworm numbers under control.

Organically Acceptable Methods

Use bloomtime sprays of Bacillus thuringiensis and spring sprays of the Entrust formulation of spinosad on organically grown apricots.

Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

Monitor for green fruitworms from the beginning of bloom until after petal fall. Carefully check young leaves and blossoms for the presence of larvae and leaf damage. Use a beating tray to catch larvae that drop from the tree as you shake blossom clusters, young fruit, and foliage, or hit limbs with a beating stick. Check green fruit for the presence of larvae. A treatment threshold of 1 worm per 100 fruit clusters per 20-acre block or 1 worm per 50 beat tray samples has been developed for pears and probably is applicable to stone fruits.

If damaging numbers are present, prevent fruit damage by treating with insecticide. Delayed dormant applications of oil plus organophosphate insecticide control green fruitworms. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) formulations are safe to use during bloom and are effective on small larvae. Bloomtime applications of Bt for peach twig borer may control green fruitworms and cankerworms as well. If you use other materials, make applications during or shortly after petal fall. Spot-treat localized infestations. Continue to monitor for the pest after treatment. If you find no more young larvae, you need take no more control action that season.

Take a fruit damage sample at harvest to assess the effectiveness of the current year's IPM program and to determine the needs of next year's program (see FRUIT SAMPLING AT HARVEST). Record results (example form— PDF ).



UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Apricot
UC ANR Publication 3433

Insects and Mites

W. W. Coates, UC Cooperative Extension, San Benito County
R. A. Van Steenwyk, Insect Biology, UC Berkeley
W. J. Bentley, UC IPM Program, Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier
K. R. Day, UC Cooperative Extension, Tulare County
K. A. Kelley, UC Cooperative Extension, Stanislaus County
J. L. Caprile, UC Cooperative Extension, Contra Costa County

Acknowledgment for contributions to Insects and Mites:

PDF: To display a PDF document, you may need to use a PDF reader.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
All contents copyright © 2017 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

For noncommercial purposes only, any Web site may link directly to this page. FOR ALL OTHER USES or more information, read Legal Notices. Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual solutions to specific pest problems. See our Home page, or in the U.S., contact your local Cooperative Extension office for assistance.

Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Management of fruitworms

As with other occasional pests of tomatoes, there is no special monitoring or treatment program for fruitworms. Carefully watch for feeding damage as fruits are expanding. Spray only when damage levels are intolerable. If damage were severe in Iowa like it is in other parts of the U.S., a weekly insecticide application from fruit set until the end of harvest would be used. Fortunately, fruitworm damage in Iowa is low and removing damaged fruit from the plant or sorting injured tomatoes during harvest provides adequate management.

Do you live in Iowa and have an insect you would like identified?

The Iowa State University Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic will identify your insect, provide information on what it eats, life cycle, and if it is a pest the best ways to manage them. Please see our website for current forms, fees, and instructions on preserving and mailing insects.

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