Cantharidin, a natural toxin produced by beetles in the families Meloidae and Oedemeridae, reported to be toxic to some pests, is being developed as a biopesticide in China. This study evaluates the toxicity and biochemical characterization of cantharidin on the codling moth, Cydia pomonella (L.) (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae), an economically important fruit pest, under both laboratory and field conditions. Laboratory dose response bioassays showed that the LC50 value of cantharidin against neonate larvae was 0.057 mg ml-1. Exposure of the larvae to 0.024 and 0.057 mg ml-1 of cantharidin resulted in significant reduction in larval body weight. Neonate larvae exposed to LC10 of cantharidin showed increased glutathione S-transferase activity and significantly reduced the carboxylesterase and cytochrome P450-dependent mixed-function oxidase activities. Results also showed 16 and 25% ovicidal activity at concentrations of 0.057 and 0.14 mg ml-1 of cantharidin, respectively. Field trials demonstrated cantharidin has a significant effect on both the first and second generations of C. pomonella larvae, but it exhibits a lower control efficiency than the chemical reference emamectin benzoate. Cantharidin may be considered a valuable tool for the control of codling moth.