Sticky barriers are organic mechanical pest controls that block insects and caterpillars from climbing your trees and shrubs, eating leaves, laying eggs, and spreading the diseases they carry. These barriers are easy to install, cost practically nothing, and they are extremely effective.
How to make a sticky barrier
Sticky barriers can be store bought (Tanglefoot, Bug Gum Mastic, Roxo Bug Glue) or home made (petroleum jelly, axle grease). In either case, tree trunks should first be wrapped with tape that is at least 2” wide. The sticky material can damage bark. To be effective, the tape must fill all nooks, crannies, and cracks. The sticky barrier substance is then spread on top of the tape. You can use a putty knife, paint brush, or gloved fingers. It is a good idea to place the tape high enough to avoid attracting grass blades, the higher the better. As soon as something creates a bridge across the sticky barrier, it is useless.
Sticky barrier maintenance
To keep these barriers effective, it is a good idea to inspect them regularly. Extremely hot water can cause dripping that renders the barrier ineffective. Also, as ants and other pests try to cross the sticky barrier, their dead bodies will eventually create safe passage for those that come later. It may be necessary to replace the bands as they become soiled.
Barriers should be in place before pests emerge. To replace the barrier, I strongly urge you to wear disposable gloves. This stuff is really sticky. Peel the old barrier off and put it in an old can or box. I tried using a trash bag - bad idea. Then, simply reapply a new barrier and a new layer of of sticky barrier substance. It’s pretty amazing, seeing evidence of just how many tiny crawling insects threaten the health of your trees, vines, and other plants!
So, what’s wrong with these crawling insects?
Crawling insects often eat vulnerable new growth, reducing production, and making plants susceptible to other pests. Crawling insects can carry bacterial and fungal disease to healthy plants. Some of these crawlers protect other insects that cause damage. Below are just a few of the insects thwarted by sticky barriers:
Ants can carry bacterial and fungal diseases to healthy plants. They also protect aphid and soft scale pests from their natural enemies. Limiting aphid populations cuts the amount of honeydew present on leaves. Honeydew is habitat for sooty mold fungus.
Weevils climb up vines and trunks and eat leaves, buds, flowers and cluster rachis (stems).
Also known as inchworms or loopers, these pests create small BB-sized holes in the leaves of ornamental hardwood trees and shrubs, dogwood, Rhododendron, roses, and apple trees.
Cutworms get up into trees and grape vines, eating new leaves and blossom clusters.
Gypsy moths are mostly found east of the Rockies, but they can defoliate an entire tree in a matter of days, left unchecked.
Webworm larvae overwinter in leaf litter. In spring, the caterpillars climb plum trees and start eating leaves (not veins).
Western Tussock Moth
Western tussock moth larvae attack plum, pistachio, prune, cherry, citrus, apricot, apple and pine trees.
Rather than applying chemical pesticides that can kill off pollinators and other beneficial insects, sticky barriers create safe protection against crawling insects in the garden.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!