Horticultural Glue: The Simplest, Easiest Method To Reduce Insect Problems

Tanglefoot or other horticultural glue is one of my biggest garden friends. This is a glue that doesn’t dry right away – has the consistency of putty, is really, really sticky and is an amazing little bit of hort “stuff”.  And these homemade sticky traps are simply the easiest way to control insects in your garden.

A sticky ball hung in an apple tree. You can see the insects stuck to it

I’ve used it:

  • Wrapping tape around the bird feeder poles to stop ants from crawling up and drinking all the hummingbird food.
  • Wrapping masking tape around the trunks of trees (above dog and kid height) and making sure there are no spaces under the tape – then coating the tape with glue so caterpillars (who come down during the day) can’t get back into the tree and their protective nests. You wind up with a mass of caterpillars on the ground and you can dispose of them (or stomp them or ??) in whichever way you like. But they can’t get into the tree.
  • Coating red balls with the glue and when wasps and other insects decide to land on the “ripe” apple, they get caught and insect damage is really lowered without spraying. These get really gross by the end of the season.
  • Coating yellow tags (the colour of anti-freeze jugs – a bright yellow) with the stuff and hanging it around home greenhouses, places where fruit flies get going, or out in the garden. Again, insects prefer the colour yellow (exception see below) and will fly to it and get stuck. These can reduce whitefly infestations by 90% with no spraying. Hang them or stake them every 4-6 feet throughout the garden if you have a problem.
  • Coating sky-blue plastic with glue attracts thrips. So if you have a lot of gladiola damage (streaking flowers) or other plant damage due to thrips (they also carry some viral diseases that wipe out flowering daisies) then these blue cards are beloved by thrips.

A bit of rubbing alcohol or other friendly solvent takes it off but it does stain clothes.

Do NOT put horticultural glue directly on the bark of trees.

I did this once with some chestnuts and it softened up the young bark. I always use a round or three of masking tape now and put the glue directly on the tape. This tape will last 1-2 years and is easily replaced (the glue hardens up over the winter and needs replacing yearly)

Update Re The Sticky Pages (Not this product)

Note this product is NOT the sticky pages you can lay down for mice and other rodents. Those are even more sticky than this product.

I do not recommend using those single page traps outdoors because they are strong enough to capture small birds. Use indoors for rodents but NOT outdoors.

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Homemade Horticultural Glue


This isn’t as good as the Tanglefoot product I use but you could wrap your tree trunks with masking tape and use something like Vaseline.

The big advantage here is that insects aren’t going to want to cross it.

Bigger insects may not be trapped in it but may be deterred.

If insects do try to cross it, smaller insects will likely be bogged down (you’ll have to make it really thick on the tape or card) but the larger ones – big beetles etc- won’t likely be trapped.

Corn Syrup

Readers have told me they’ve had so-so luck with corn syrup spread onto yellow cards as well.

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9 thoughts on “Horticultural Glue: The Simplest, Easiest Method To Reduce Insect Problems”

  1. Hi Doug
    Any ideas how we can make this work for Japanese Beatles, they are brutal!! We have dried spraying the eggs in mid-summer, grub stage in early spring and late fall. Nematoides at the correct temperature and of course the traps with no luck. we even contacted an organic grape grower/Vintner in the Niagara are and he said hand pick and that nature would eventually balance the infestation out. He maybe right (interestingly we have had no June bugs for the last 8-10 years). Hoping research into your geranium article is advanced.

  2. Joe – no idea if this would work on the beetles. You might catch the odd one and you could experiment with different colours of plastic to see if/what they might be attracted to. Or maybe fake flowers or ??? (Not sure what you mean by the research into the geranium article? Right now, just trying to get the images all hooked back up on my new part-time semi-retired basis.)

  3. Would this be harmful to birds? Would they stick to it? I think our worst problem is with slugs but maybe earwigs also that eat our hostas. We’ve set out slug bait (beer) but have never caught a slug.

  4. I’ve never seen or heard of a bird having an issue with sticky traps. The biggest thing I’ve ever seen on them is a wasp and only rarely. Never seen a honeybee (but that doesn’t mean they won’t get stuck on them) I can’t see a bird being stuck – it’s not that powerful of a glue on this size of plastic. BUT. Stranger things have happened so if you’re concerned – don’t use the product. Re slugs. There are some posts on this site (do a search in the top right corner) that should help.

  5. I’ve updated the post to recommend you use Tanglefoot for outdoor insects but *never* the indoor sticky sheets intended for rodents. Different product and those sheets are much stickier.

  6. No. Do not put sticky tape on hummingbird feeders. These tiny birds can get some on their wings and slow their amazing flight which they need to survive.Please change this post. Please no one wants to harm the hummingbirds.

  7. Ruth – I agree with you – do not put sticky stuff on hummingbird feeders. BUT what I wrote was I put it on the “poles supporting the feeders” (not on the feeders themselves) The birds do not use the pole but land on the feeder.

  8. Sincere question: Will this work to keep tree climbing snakes out of birdhouses and nests in tall trees? Last year was horrible. I had to kill two snakes and relocated 4 more from my area. One snake was over 12 ft. up into the tree after baby birds and bird eggs.
    These are non-venomous bull snakes that get quite large.
    Thank you in advance for your response.
    M. Kinkennon

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