Codling moth females (Cydia pomonella, Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) (CM) usually lay single eggs and have a tendency to disperse. In a first experiment we observed that single females exposed to 20 apples distribute their eggs regularly among apples, suggesting a dispersive oviposition behavior. In a dual-choice situation, isolated females avoided oviposition on areas of cardboard treated with a methylene dichloride egg extract at the dose of ca. 1.0 egg equivalent/cm(2). A strong avoidance was obtained in response to a 20-fold dose, which was accompanied by a significant reduction of total oviposition. Seven major compounds found by GC analyses in the methylene dichloride extract of 2 to 3-day-old eggs were saturated or unsaturated C14-C18 straight-chain fatty acids: myristic acid, palmitic acid, palmitoleic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, and linolenic acid. This was confirmed by GC-MS analysis of an extract made by ethyl ether. Smaller amounts of three methyl esters were also identified as methyl myristate, methyl palmitate, and methyl stearate. A blend of the seven fatty acids (FA) mimicked rather well the avoidance provoked by the extract, and this avoidance was confirmed by choice between treated and untreated fruits by single females. The treatment of apples with the 7FA mixture induced an aggregative distribution of the eggs among apples. We also found that the amounts of fatty acids harvested in the extract depend on the egg age. Amounts of fatty acids increased until eggs were 4 days old and then decreased before hatching. In this paper we discuss the possible role of simple molecules, such as fatty acids and their esters, as semiochemicals indicative of juvenile tissues.