Summer leafroller control: Scouting will save you money!

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.      

Scout to determine need for control measures

The availability of several excellent obliquebanded leafroller control materials has growers asking advice for proper timing and sequencing of these materials, but before insecticide applications are undertaken, growers are best advised to first determine whether such applications are necessary. Due to the difficulty in scouting for overwintered obliquebanded leafroller larvae in early spring, obliquebanded leafroller insecticides are routinely recommended as part of an early spring spray program on farms with historical leafroller damage. As larvae mature in late spring, though, their presence is far easier to detect, and visual inspections for larvae or signs of their presence can save growers the cost of unnecessary, and often expensive, summertime insecticide applications. In other words, a key piece of information growers need to make a good economical decision for summer leafroller control is the extent to which larvae survived the early season treatment. With the excellent control provided by the new compounds registered in recent years, fewer and fewer are surviving.

Moth captures in pheromone traps provide valuable information to the scout and grower, including the establishment of biofix, but are not a reliable indicator of leafroller abundance or potential damage. Obliquebanded leafroller traps have a large active space, potentially catching moths that originate from within the trapped orchard, neighboring or more distant orchards and native habitats. Thus, high moth catches may or may not indicate that the orchard being monitored has a leafroller problem. Very low catches of less than five per week strongly hint that obliquebanded leafroller is not a problem. In either case, assessing larval activity is highly recommended to determine if a treatment is warranted.

Scouting orchards for surviving obliquebanded leafroller larvae in growing terminals is the best way to judge whether intervention in the summer is likely to be needed. Larvae are green with brown to black head capsules and are about 25 mm long when fully grown. Often, a scout will detect signs of leafroller activity rather than the actual larva. The name leafroller comes from the larva’s habit of rolling leaves to form a shelter. These feeding sites are most often found at the tips of growing shoots. Larvae also will use silk webbing to attach two leaves or a leaf and fruit together to form a shelter. The presence of webbing is a good clue that leafrollers are around. Orchards in which less than 2 percent of the terminals were infested should be monitored in the summer, but controls may not be warranted. Higher levels of shoot infestation are cause for concern and control measures are likely needed to prevent fruit injury. This investment of time could result in saving several sprays.

Obliquebanded leafroller GDD model

DD° Base 42 (Post Biofix)



Tight cluster

Majority of larvae have emerged from shelters

Examine fruit buds for larval activity

0 DD° = biofix
(~900 DD° after Jan 1)

1st sustained moth captures

Set DD° = 0

220-250 DD°

Peak moth flight -
overwintering generation


400-450 DD°

Start of egg hatch

Timing for scouting-based treatment with larvicides (egg materials applied earlier)

1000 DD°

End of egg hatch


2300 DD°

Peak moth flight - 2nd generation


2750 DD°

Start of 2nd generation
egg hatch

Timing for scouting-based treatment

Timing control measures

Degree-day models are essential tools to be used in timing insecticide sprays. Optimal timing for summer sprays varies according to the life stage or stages that are targeted by the product of choice. For conventional insecticides, like organophosphates (OPs), pyrethroids and carbamates, the first sprays should be targeted between 400 and 450 GDD after biofix to control hatching larvae before they can damage fruit. Obliquebanded leafrollers are resistant to OPs in most apple growing regions of the state and are generally not the best option for control. Bt’s are most effective when applied during warm weather conditions (daily highs in the 70’s). If Bt products are used, the latter timing (450 GDD) may be the better choice because they have a short residual, which must be present to control the larvae at the time and location they are actively feeding. If the first application is applied too early, it may take four or more sprays to keep the active ingredient on the foliage throughout the long period of larval activity. Bt products are generally more effective with a lower tank pH. SpinTor has a similarly short residual (seven to ten days), but provides some contact efficacy, which will help kill larvae as they move to the actively growing terminals. SpinTor is also a good choice for leafroller control in cherry blocks where control with OPs and pyrethroids is failing to provide adequate protection. Proclaim, a new material (Avermectin class) has also shown very good activity against OBLR, and requires ingestion by larvae.

In contrast, if Intrepid is used early it should be targeted to cover obliquebanded leafroller egg masses around 350 GDD post-biofix, so that larvae will consume the chemical as they eat their eggshells upon emergence. Intrepid can also be used later to protect fruit against damage from older larval instars. Upon application, Intrepid has a long residual effect, but should be reapplied where necessary on a 14-day interval to insure coverage of new terminal growth. Good, thorough coverage is key to leafroller control with materials requiring ingestion to be effective. The addition of an agricultural adjuvant to Intrepid 2-F is recommended to improve spray deposition.

Rimon acts by suppressing development within the egg, as well as larvae that consume it. Hatching of eggs laid by treated adults will also be inhibited. Eggs are particularly susceptible to these products when laid on top of sprayed residue, thus sprays should target 100-200 GDD after obliquebanded leafroller biofix. Similarly, Esteem applied at obliquebanded leafroller egg laying timing will also provide some control, though it is more typically used for the overwintering generation.

It should be noted that treating the summer generation of obliquebanded leafroller with SpinTor, Rimon or Proclaim would also provide some control of codling moth, Oriental fruit moth and spotted tentiform leafminer. Intrepid applied at the earlier summer obliquebanded leafroller timing would also assist in controlling codling moth and tufted apple budmoth. Esteem will provide control of San Jose scale crawlers and some added control of codling moth. Bt’s can also be expected to control other leafrollers when applied in the summer for obliquebanded leafroller control.

Resistance management

As with many of our key apple pests, obliquebanded leafroller has a track record of developing resistance to insecticides. Currently, there are some good options for control of this pest. Practicing good resistance management should help conserve their efficacy. We encourage you to rotate materials with different modes of action. For example,if Rimon was the material of choice for control of overwintering larvae, opt for Proclaim, SpinTor or Intrepid if a summer treatment is warranted. During periods of warm weather, Bt is an excellent option and a good resistance management strategy.

Obliquebanded leafroller insecticides labeled for apples

Compound Trade Name

Chemical Class


Optimal Spray Timing for OBLR

Residual Activity

Mite Flaring Potential

Guthion, Imidan



Biofix + 400-450 DD

10-14 days

L - M

Lannate, Sevin



Biofix + 400-450 DD

5-7 days

M - H

Asana, Warrior, Danitol, Decis



Biofix + 400-450 DD

7-10 days


Deliver, Dipel, Crymax



Biofix + 450 DD

5-7 days


Spintor, Entrust



Biofix + 400-450 DD

7-10 days



(chitin inhibitor)


Biofix + 100-200 DD
Residue under eggs

14+ days





Biofix + 400-450 DD

7-10 days




Eggs, Larvae,
Adults (sublethal)

Biofix + 350 DD
Residue over eggs

14+ days



IGR (juvenoid)

Eggs, Larvae

Biofix + 100 DD
Residue under eggs

10-14 days


* May cause mite flaring in combination with carbaryl or pythrethroids that kill predacious mites.

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