Coddling moths are the greatest insect threat to apple orchards from sunny California to rainy Washington. "[coddling moths] will cause major economic damage if not suppressed," said Swezey. In fact, they have driven some organic farmers in Santa Barbara County out of business, according to Steve Loyal, an agriculture biologist for that county.

Female moths that are allowed to complete their life cycle unchecked by disruptive farmers lay up to 130 tiny eggs on apple leaves or near apple clusters. These eggs hatch into voracious larvae that squirm into a nearby apple to eat away their infancy, ruining the apple for future sale. When the larvae have eaten their fill, they crawl under the apple bark or into the soil to change into adult moths.

In cool climates larvae develop slowly, limiting moths to only one generation per year. Larvae hide out in the soil during cool winters then reappear as mature moths in the spring, ready to produce another generation of apple-seeking infants. In warmer climates such as some areas of California, the moths may produce as many as five generations of hungry larvae in a single summer.