Commercial growers use sticky traps to monitor (sample) the density of insect pests in large orchards. Knowing the density makes it possible to limit the number of times sprays or other controls are applied and thereby lowering expenses. Monitoring can also locate hot spots, that is, locations in orchards where there are higher numbers of insects, and from there the source of these infestations may be traced, such as a wild apple tree nearby.

In more recent years some growers have started using sticky traps for complete control of insect pests such as the apple maggot fly, and reducing or eliminating the need for spraying insecticides. This is referred to as a total "trap-out" rather than just monitoring. In the small Kitchen Orchard these traps are very effective in keeping the numbers of insect pests to a minimum.

If you are planning to use sticky traps for a total trap-out and not just for monitoring, it is advisable not to release beneficial insects for control as well. Beneficials also may be attracted to the sticky traps, especially trichogramma wasps.

Traps generally come in three types; pheromone traps, visual traps and bait traps.

Pheromone traps contain a chemical lure which emulates the same sexual odours given off by female moths to attract males. Each species has its own odour. Special traps can be purchased for codling moth, obliquebanded leafroller, spotted tentiform leafminer, green fruitworm and many others which use both a pheromone lure and a sticky coating. (e.g. Natural Insect Control in Ontario sells pheromone lures for over 50 species of insects)

Pheromone ties or tapes (without sticky coatings) are also used for mating disruption. This is accomplished by hanging them throughout the orchard in such quantities that the pheromone scent saturates the orchard and makes it difficult for male moths to locate females. About 200 ties per 1/2 acre (1/5 hectare) are needed for effective control and should be left there for the full season. They should not be considered as completely effective and should be used along with other controls. One product, Isomate C Plus, is available as red plastic ties for 50 to 60 cents each depending on quantity.

Attracticides. It is worth mentioning that in the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) world, a new approach uses "attracticides" which is considered more environmentally friendly than previous methods. A relatively new product called Last Call, consisting of a sticky goop laced with codling moth pheromone and an insecticide (permethrin 6%) is dabbed on trees, about 5 tiny drops per tree. It only attracts male moths that land on the drop of goop and are killed. It is not a cover spray for the entire orchard as has been the common practice in the past.


Visual traps are of a colour and shape which attracts the insects. There are three popular types, the yellow rectangular cards, white cards and red balls.

Bait traps use a variety of natural foods or synthetic plant volatiles, referred to as lures, to attract the insects. They may be hung near by, or added to a visual trap such as a yellow card or red ball or they may be as simple as molasses and vinegar in a jug. They are sold in small plastic packets or in vials (e.g. Gemplers sells butyl hexanoate vial lures developed at University of Mass which smells like ripe apples and will last all season.)

Sticky traps are available from numerous manufacturers and are usually available at most garden centres.

Sticky compounds are available from several manufactures:
Animal Repellents Inc., "Tack Trap"
Olson Products Inc., "Sticky Stuff"
Seabright Labs, "Stickem"
Tanglefoot Co., "Tanglefoot"


There are several styles of these traps which are sold:

Yellow card traps:

The yellow card traps will trap apple maggot flies, leaf miners, leaf hoppers and a variety of other insects. They contain a sticky glue but they do not use an odour attractant lure. However, you can purchase lures separately and hang them near, or stick them directly onto the traps to make them even more effective. Some orchardists recommend sprinkling ammonium acetate or ammonium carbonate over the traps to make them more attractive to apple maggots. Those that have tried both recommend that the former has the best results.

For a total trap out place one trap per dwarf tree, two per semi-dwarf and 4 per standard size tree, beginning in June just after the blossoms have fallen and continue until the end of July.

Yellow sticky traps cost about $7.00 Can. for a package of ten 3" X 5", precoated with Tangle-Trap.

Red sticky spheres:

The red ball traps are used to trap apple maggots late in the season when apples are starting to mature. Hang the red ball traps beginning in late July or early August to replace the yellow sticky cards. They are coated with a sticky, natural based glue and, as an option, they may also contain an odour attractant lure to make them more effective.

Only hang a few out to monitor at first. When enough flies are caught to warrant control, set out more for a total trap-out (see section on apple maggot). Hang one per each dwarf tree, 2 to 3 per semi-dwarf tree, and 4 to 6 for a standard size tree. One trap for every 100 fruit is a good ratio to use. Hang them at eye level or slightly higher on the south or brightest side of the tree, far enough away from leaves that the flies can easily see them. Pick a location where there are clusters of apples near by. Don't hang plastic red ball traps in direct sun as sunlight will deteriorate them. Examine the traps at least twice weekly. Cleaning will be necessary two to three times during a season.

These traps range in cost from less than $2.00 US to more than $7.00 US each depending on their quality and durability. The cheaper ones will only last a season whereas the more expensive ones may last several seasons. If you don't like cleaning them, then use the cheaper, throw away traps or wrap them in transparent freezer bags before coating and hanging.

Apple scented lures which can be hung with the traps, and for some types inside them, cost from $2.50 to $3.00 US each.

Ladd Apple Maggot Fly traps:

The Ladd AMF Trap ® consists of a bright yellow plastic card with half of a red sphere in the middle of each side of it (see item #4 on Biological Warfare Page). It uses a sticky glue and an attractant lure made out of a synthetic apple odour. The manufacturer, Ladd Research Industries, and other research scientists and commercial growers claim these traps are two to three times as effective as the yellow cards or the red spheres that are used alone. Space the Ladd traps further apart than the red sticky traps, at 3 to 4 times the distance. For monitoring, some users suggest as few as one or two per acre. Hang them on the south side of trees at eye level. Initially hang up one or two in late June to monitor for the flies. As soon as one or two flies are caught hang several more as a total control or a trap-out (see apple maggot for more detail).

Ladd traps come in a kit which is assembled by snapping together two halves of a red plastic ball onto a yellow card. The kit also contains apple maggot fly lure, Tangle Trap ®, gloves and an applicator along with an apple maggot fly fact sheet. The spheres, cards and other items can be purchased separately as well. This is a patented design and therefore may not be available from any other manufacturer.

The kits cost $13.95 US (1997 price list).

White card traps.

The white card sticky traps are similar to the yellow cards and will trap European apple sawfly and tarnished plant bug. Hang them from trees at eye level for saw fly and at knee height for plant bug. Hang them beginning at silver tip to catch tarnished plant bug and check them through bloom stage for sawflies. Hang them near to blossoms but not so close that the wind will blow the card against leaves and blossoms.

Only set out a few cards initially in order to monitor. Set out more when control (total trap-out) is required.

For a trap-out hang 1 trap per dwarf tree, 2 per semi-dwarf tree and 3 to 4 per standard tree.

White card sticky traps with a precoating of glue cost from $2.50 to $3.50 each.

Delta, Diamond, Wing and other Traps

These traps use pheromones to attract and capture codling moths, leafrollers and other pest moths. The delta traps are constructed from a white plastic and are shaped like a tent. Some types have a removable sticky liner that fits inside the bottom of the trap. Others have a sticky coating on all three inside surfaces. The wing traps are constructed of a waxed cardboard and have a sticky coating on all three inside surfaces. Ladd Research Industries makes a plastic trap which looks very much like a pair of percussion cymbals. All of these traps have a pheromone lure placed inside.

Except for Ladd's plastic traps, most of these traps are a bit tricky to assemble without getting yourself caught in the trap. Working with wet hands will help keep the sticky compound off them. Some suppliers provide thin latex gloves with their kits. Also, be careful not to get the pheromone on your hands and clothes or the moths will be following you everywhere you go. Actually, the real problem is transferring the lure from your hands to other objects which are not coated with the sticky glue to trap the moths and defeating the effectiveness of your traps. This becomes especially important if you are working with two or more types of lures, where you could get the scents mixed together and destroy their effectiveness, or actually attract the wrong insect.

These cost from $6.00 to $15.00 each depending on what is included with them.


Hand made traps.

These take a little more effort to prepare than simply buying commercial traps but they are less expensive and just as effective.

Milk jugs can be used for bait traps. Cut a large opening in the side of a plastic milk or juice jug leaving enough room at the bottom to hold a cup or more of liquid. Make a bait for apple maggot flies from 10 ml (2 tsp.) or more of household ammonia and 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp.) of powdered soap mixed in a litre (US quart) of water. Pour into the plastic jugs and hang by their handles from a tree as you would the yellow card traps. Hanging the bait traps along with the visual sticky traps has better success than either one alone.

Another recipe for catching apple maggot flies using the same plastic jugs is to mix 1 part molasses to 9 parts water and add a pinch of yeast to cause speedy fermentation. They will be drawn to their demise in this gooey brew.

Finally some people have great success by mixing 60 ml (1/4 cup) cider vinegar and 30 ml (2 tbsp.) molasses in 125 ml (1/2 cup) of water. Clean the jugs by pouring the liquid through a sieve to remove the dead insects and returning it to the jar. The worse it smells, the better it works.

You may wish to try several different bait recipes and determine which has the most success for you.

Jugs should be cleaned once per week.

Easy clean plywood traps.
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Plywood sticky traps are heavier and do less flopping around in breezes than light cardboard or plastic traps.

Buy a sheet of 1/4 inch plywood or "hardboard" and cut it up into small squares that will fit snugly into a clear plastic sandwich bad or freezer bag (about 5" X 9"; 12 cm X 22 cm). Paint the plywood pieces with a base of white latex. Use as a white card trap or cover with a bright cadmium yellow, Rustoleum Yellow No.659, the author uses Lucite Leslie No. 180L4D. Several sources recommend fluorescent yellow. The author was advised by one entomologist that cadmium yellow is the most effective. Drill a small hole through the top for hanging them. Insert the plywood squares into the plastic sleeve (open end facing down) and coat the sleeve with a sticky compound such as Tanglefoot®, Stickem® or Sticky Stuff®. To give the trap a more "alluring" smell some people recommend mixing 1/4 teaspoon ammonium acetate crystals in 3 tablespoons of sticky compound. Whether this is, in reality, more effective than the traps by themselves is debated by some researchers. To clean the traps after a few weeks you simple remove the plastic covering and discard.

Easy clean red ball traps.
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Imitation plastic fruit such as apples and oranges and also wooden croquet balls painted dark red may be used with good results. Wrap them in small plastic bags (e.g. 6 in X 10 in, 15 cm X 25 cm freezer bags) and coat with Tanglefoot, other commercial glue or homemade glue.

For the perfect trap hang a real red apple (eg. Red Delicious) from a tree coated with sticky compound. Simply run a stiff wire through the apple and suspend from a limb.

Make your own homemade adhesive.
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A homemade sticky coating can be made by mixing two parts Vaseline (petroleum jelly) and one part household detergent or insecticidal soap.
If you hang traps coated with petroleum jelly where they can flap in the wind against the bark of branches or trunk, you will cause serious damage to the tree. The oil based jelly will penetrate the bark and restrict sap flow, eventually damaging or even killing the tree.


Cleaning Sticky Traps.

If you coat the traps directly, rather than covering them with a plastic sleeve first, you will have to manually clean them. A pail of hot soapy water, a plastic ice-cream container, and a putty knife are the basic tools for this job. Other substances recommended by some organic growers are cooking oil, baby oil, rubbing alcohol or cleaning solvents such as odourless mineral spirits. Dip the traps into the hot water, cooking oil or other solvents and let set for a couple of minutes to soften the sticky coating. Use the putty knife to scrape away the softened glue and dead insects. Remove this messy goo from the putty knife by scraping it into the ice-cream container which will be discarded into the garbage. You may have cleaner results by dividing this process into two steps. Dip the traps in cooking oils or cleaning solvents first, scraping away the softened glue, and then dipping a second time into hot water for a more thorough job. Completely dry the traps and recoat with Tanglefoot or similar garden glue.


Use stakes to display sticky traps.

Rather than hanging traps on trees where they can flap in the wind against branches, attach them instead to tall stakes near the trees. Also, heavy objects like jugs, plywood and real apples, when suspended from a young limb by a stiff wire, can damage the bark from constant rubbing as it swings in the wind. Hanging these from stakes is more practical. This also makes the traps more visible.


The sunlight glistening from Tanglefoot or other sticky compounds, even if just painted on plain tree wraps, can attract lacewings and ladybugs.