How to Make Homemade Insect Traps

Your garden can become a deadly trap for certain insects and yet not be a hazard to you, your family, or beneficial insects. Gardeners can turn the insects' desire for food into a trap. We can accomplish this simply by making the trap attractive to the pest insect. Your vegetables and flowers, because of the color of their foliage, attract certain insects.

Their eyes key in on the reflected colors of the leaf, essentially yellow mixed with green. If you use this fact about insects to your advantage, you can make a sure-fire trap for them by simply adding a sticky substance to a material of the proper color.

How to use Recycled Poster Board for Traps

In years past, I made my own sticky, yellow traps by painting poster-board yellow and then applying a sticky substance to it. I eventually was tired of painting, so I decided to buy yellow poster-board instead. My labor went down, but the price of materials went up. Finally, I came up with an ingenious solution for recycling the yellow poster-board for reuse.

The secret to my recycling method involves using plastic freezer bags. Any size of clear plastic bag is acceptable, but I prefer to use the thin, inexpensive type that is about 11 by 14 inches in size. You can even use the plastic bags in which shirts come.

Cut your yellow cardboard so that you can slide it inside the bag. Then coat the plastic bag with a sticky material. You may want to use Tanglefoot, a commercial product that is very popular for trapping gypsy moth caterpillars as they climb trees looking for food.

Another good product to use is Stikem, although you can also used substances such as heavy motor oil and petroleum jelly. When your sticky substance becomes covered with bugs, simply slide off the plastic bag and discard it.

Put on a new bag and coating, and you're back in business, using the same piece of cardboard. If you prefer not to bother with the plastic bags and sticky coating, you can buy ready-made sticky cards.

Laying Garden Insect Traps

There are several methods you can use to install your insect traps in the garden. You can staple them onto stakes that you push into the ground, or you can hang them by strings. If you are using the former method, staple the yellow cardboard to the wood stake; then slide the plastic bag over the staked cardboard from the top.

If you have a lot of trouble with wind, you can staple shut the open end of the bag. For the wood stakes, use thin wood strips, such as the discarded wood strip from the bottom of old window shades, or wood paint stirrers. The thin wood allows you simply to staple the yellow cardboard right to the wood stake.

Another alternative for installing insect traps is to slide the yellow cardboard into the plastic bag with the open end of the bag on top; then staple string to the top of the bag. You can also staple the bag closed, but don't staple the bag to the cardboard because this will make recycling difficult.

Tie the trap to a stake, such as a tomato plant stake, and you've got a suspended insect trap. Where vine crops are being grown on a fence or trellis, you can tie the traps to the netting, trellis, or fence that you are using as the garden's supports. You can also tie the traps to a string suspended between two poles, forming a sort of clothesline for bug traps.

Where to Locate Traps

At this point you may be wondering when to place your traps in your garden. The solution is quite simple. Watch your plants very closely and carefully for any signs of insects. As soon as you see any, install the traps.

You will want to head off any and all pests before their numbers get too high, because high numbers of pests mean more traps will be needed and more damage will be done to your crops before you can get the pests under control.

In particular, watch your tomato and squash plants for whiteflies and your peas, cabbage, and broccoli for aphids. These insects are the early arrivals - they most commonly appear on the early crops we just mentioned.

Be especially sure that you check the undersides of the plant leaves for insects as well. After a period of time you will also want to watch the tips of roses and the undersides of squash leaves for aphids.

These sites seem to be the first attack zone of aphids if they haven't arrived with the earlier crops. Be sure you make your plant inspections frequently and early, because the sooner you get your insect traps in place, the sooner you will do away with you garden pests.

How Many do You Need

You may now be wondering how far apart to place these sticky cards and how many you need for your garden. There is no simple answer, because the number of cards you need really depends on how bad the whitefly infestation is and how big your card is. With an 11-by-14 inch card, use one card for about every 10 square feet you want to protect from whiteflies and aphids.

A larger or smaller card will increase or decrease, respectively, the protected area. Keep track of the card in terms of the number of whiteflies you find stuck to it. If the card becomes saturated with whiteflies in less than one week go to two cards per 10 square feet. Should one card go for a week or longer, great. If cards last two weeks or longer, cut down the number of sticky cards when you replace them.

In addition, you can trap whiteflies quite rapidly, a point that might come in handy if you didn't notice the whiteflies until a large number were present. The secret to this technique lies in disturbance.

Generally whiteflies fly off a plant infrequently; however, if you disturb the plant, you get a cloud of "flying dandruff." The idea is to cause whitefly flight from one side of the plant while having the sticky traps located on the other side.

See Also:
Garden Pest Barriers