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Cheap Organic Pest Control for Fruit Trees

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Homemade Codling Moth Trap

We planted a small orchard in our backyard several years ago (tour my garden here), and it’s finally starting to spring into action. Last year our apricot bushes fruited for the first time, and our apple trees produced their second harvest. This year, it looks like our cherry bushes are going to get in on the action, too They’re flowering now.

It’s pretty exciting to see all of our hard work coming together, but with each stage comes new obstacles. The first year our apricot bushes flowered, there weren’t any bees out to pollinate them, so we built mason bee houses to attract early pollinators to our yard. That worked like a charm, and we had lots of apricots last year. I’m sure the pests that ate them really appreciated our efforts.

Just like the codling moths appreciated our first crop of apples and the birds appreciated our first two crops of grapes. It’s enough to make you want to give up, but we’ve stuck with it, and we’ve found ways to address every one of our pests. Now we bag our grapes to keep the birds off, and we stick codling moth traps out as soon as we spot the first leaves on our apple trees.

This year I’m hoping to build on that success by finding a pest control solution for our apricot bushes and a cheaper pest control solution for our apple trees. Here’s the scoop on what I’m trying.

Codling Moth Bait Trap

For the past couple years I’ve used baited codling moth traps in our apple trees (the remains of one is seen above), and they’ve worked like a charm. They’re just waxed paper traps that are baited with pheromones and coated in Tanglefoot (a sticky goo). Moths fly inside, get stuck, and that’s the end of the story. They work fantastically, but they’re pretty pricey. A two pack currently sells for $13.01 on Amazon, and since I have three apple trees, I’d have to spend $26.02 to protect our trees. I’m not even getting $26.02 worth of apples from our trees yet, so that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Tanglefoot Sticky Coating

Well, over the winter I discovered that you can buy Tanglefoot in both brush-on and spray-on form. Meaning you can make your own Tanglefoot traps, and that’s just what I did.

When you make codling moth traps, you can either use pheromones or color to attract the moths. The pheromones are kind of expensive, so I decided to go with color.

Red is the color that you traditionally see when you buy ready-made Tanglefoot traps, but I did a bit of research and came across a study that found that green traps work best.

Screw a Cup Hook into the Ball

We happen to live close to a tennis court, and the trash cans are always full of tennis balls, so we rescued some balls, and screwed a cup hook into each one (the hooks were rescued from a curb pile, too).

Paint Tanglefoot on Balls

Then, I just brushed a thin coat of Tanglefoot onto each ball, and hung them in all of our trees (apple, apricot and cherry).

Here’s a video of what I did:

If this works well, it’ll save us a ton. I spent $20.87 for a quart of Tanglefoot (an 8 ounce container currently sells for $6.99), and it should be enough to keep us in traps for years.

Note: Prices for this product tend to fluctuate. I would advise comparing all sizes and prices before you make your purchase.

Did The Traps Work?

Yep, our pest control experiment was a huge success. Just ask the raccoon who ate all of the pest-free apples from our three apple trees. Groan! So, we’ll be doing this again next year, but it looks like we’ll be adding a live animal trap to the mix.

Homemade Codling Moth Trap with Bugs

Update 2017: This is our third year using our homemade codling moth traps, and we continue to be thrilled with the results. Here’s what one of our traps looked like after hanging for a month.

Apples from Our Fruit Tree

And here are the worm-free apples that we harvested off of our trees. I didn’t come across a single apples with insect damage when I was picking them.

It recently occurred to me that theses would also work well as fly traps. I plan to make a few to use on our front porch.

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  1. I’m really excited to find out if this works..I just hung 2 codling moth traps today and was thinking about an alternative.

    Keep us posted!

    1. Hi Valerye,

      I think that link in my article has gone bad because I just checked, and Amazon is still selling it: http://amzn.to/1TvBzp6 Scroll down, and it’s the one in the green can that says, “brush on sticky trap coating.”

  2. I’m going to look into this! We have 3 apple trees as well. We just planted blackberry bushes, I have yet to look into what pests will invade them and what I need to do for them. Any ideas? Also how tennis balls do you use per tree?

    1. Hi Amber, Japanese beetles are the biggest pest that I notice with blackberries. I hadn’t thought to make traps for my blackberries and raspberries yet. Might have to do some experimenting. As to how many traps to use per plant, it just depends on how big your trees are. A couple years ago I did one per tree. Now our trees are bigger, and I’m doing two per tree. I try to make sure we have one high in the tree, and one lower in the tree.

    2. Watch for Japanese beetles (black). They almost ruined one of my apple trees 2 years ago. They also attacked my blackberries. Totally ruined them. Also killed all my Day Lilly’s.

      This year the beetles were back. I started squishing them between my fingers. Their blood is orange and is disgusting. When there were so many, I went to nursery and bought a spray and sprayed them really well. Next day they were gone! That was a week ago. Today, I found 3 bugs again. Directions say spray once a month. So now I will watch daily. Don’t know if it will hurt to spray sooner. And, will it hurt the apples that are growing????

  3. We have a hundred foot, 4 year old red and gold raspberry bed that produced a bumper crop this year here in NH. Despite the naysayers, I use the pheromone type Japenese beetle traps, and they work extremely well. I had minimum to no damage on the plants, and bags full of beetles. I used two traps and changed the bags only once.

  4. Looks like a great idea! Are bees and other pollinators not attracted to these, or do you only hang them after the tree has finished flowering?

  5. Speaking of Tanglefoot .. we have a lot of deer flys in our yard. They are really attracted to the color royal blue. Use a dark blue or royal blue solo cup paint it with tangle foot , we just generally put the finished cup on a branch/ twig and hold above head while walking or mowing lawn ect. It’s just amazing they go for it ever time….. instead of bussing around our head and snicking in too bite us, now they just land on cup and can’t get off!!! We can get up to 100 or more on a cup. My husband is somewhat allergic to them so he carries a blue cup with him all the time . Hope this may help someone .
    Ps thanks for the tennis ball idea .. I will definitely be trying it.

  6. To keep raccoons and chipmunks from climbing your trees and eating your fruit, place a section of stovepipe around the trunk. I have also had success wrapping the trunk with press n seal, sticky side out. For some reason they don’t like to cross it.

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