I love the tomatoes from my garden…but so do aphids and whiteflies. Both of those tiny little buggers, plus things like leaf miners, attack plants all over your garden, leaving devastated veggies in their wake. And to make matters worse, these teeny little pests can be close to impossible to get rid of once they are established. I am not a fan of using heavy chemicals – so what’s a gardener to do? When at all possible, I prefer to defend my garden in the first place and prevent or repel unwanted insects, reducing the number of pests that gain a foothold and have to be fought. And what defense are we going to talk about today? Sticky yellow cup traps.
Cheap and simple, these yellow plastic cups are covered in a sticky substance that feels like a cross between glue and Vaseline. The idea here is that the pests that are drawn to all your produce with yellow flowers will see that big beautiful yellow cup, think it is a big delicious flower on their favorite plant to attack, land on it…and get stuck. Big insects like bees and butterflies can usually escape unharmed, but the nasty little guys you don’t want making a home in your garden get stuck and never have a chance to destroy your beautiful tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, etc. The cool thing about this product is that it never hardens like glue and won’t wash off in the rain, so it keeps right on working until the cup is too covered in bugs to still be effective. This is a preventative, not a cure, so be sure to set these out in the garden when you plant in the Spring and Fall so they can get right to work on helping stop the problem before it starts. Now, you can BUY yellow sticky traps that will accomplish much the same thing, but this suggestion is much cheaper…and I think easier to manage.
Here’s what you need:
- Bright yellow plastic cups – they have to be bright yellow
- Some sort of wooden stake
- Tanglefoot – I’ll get to this in a minute
- A drill with some small screws
I buy the yellow cups at my local Party City, but I’m sure there are lots of sources where you can find these. They do need to be the bright yellow of tomato flowers for them to do their job. Take one of these plastic cups and insert one end of a wooden stake into the cup:
You can coat the cup with Tanglefoot at this point, but I find it is easier to place it where you want it in the garden first. That Tanglefoot is sticky stuff, so the less you handle the trap after its applied the better. Select a location very close to the plants most likely to be attacked and just stick it in the ground:
You can purchase this at some nurseries and home improvement stores – or on the internet from lots of sources. I like to buy a can with the brush attached to the lid for easy application of the gooey contents.
While trying not to get this sticky stuff all over yourself, coat the entire outside of the cup with the Tanglefoot – don’t forget to do all the way around and the top as well. You want a nice thick layer, but it doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth or pretty. You just want to make sure there is Tanglefoot on the entire exterior of the cup so that an aphid will be stuck no matter where it lands.
That’s it! The trap is set. It won’t take long at all for you to start seeing flying insects stuck fast to your cup. Eventually, you will have enough insects stuck to the cup that it will be need to be replaced. You can toss the whole thing and start from scratch, or you can carefully remove and toss the cup, and reuse the stake and screws.
A word of caution. As I keep saying, this stuff is sticky! It never hardens like glue, so if you brush against it, you will get sticky stuff stuck to you…usually with a few bugs as well…yuck! I can’t tell you how many times I leaned over near one of these and ended up with sticky goo and dead flies in my hair. Luckily it washes out…but…ew!
There you have it! A simple, cheap, non-pesticide way to help prevent an infestation of aphids, whiteflies, and the like. Happy Gardening!