Harmful insects

An Easy-to-Clean Red Ball Trap

Many gardeners are used to placing red ball traps in apple trees after they bloom to attract and catch apple maggot flies (Rhagoletis pomonella). You simply coat the trap with a glue that doesn’t dry, like Tanglefoot, and the flies, attracted by what looks like a juicy mature apple, remain stuck on it, never having a chance to lay their eggs on the real apples nearby, still small and green. 

Apple maggot problem solved!

The problem, though, is that you have to clean the ball at some point, either in the middle of the season when it becomes full of flies, or at the end. Normally, this is done with a putty knife and it’s sticky, messy and disgusting task! (Read Time to Clean Up Red Ball Traps to learn more.)

But reader Nicole Coulombe suggests a more practical way to use this trap. 

At the beginning of the season, cover the ball with cling wrap (yep, straight from your kitchen!), then coat the film with glue instead of the trap itself. When you need to clean the trip, just remove and dispose of the film, and reapply cling wrap and glue. It’s less disgusting and just as effective, and imagine the time you save!

Why didn’t I think of that?

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “An Easy-to-Clean Red Ball Trap

  1. Cheap plastic apples, that are just as attractive to insects as plastic balls, can be obtained from craft stores such as Michael’s. (I don’t know what that is, but clients told me about it.) If I remember correctly, plastic fruit might sometimes be available at the dollar store too, where all the plastic flowers are. The plastic apples are cheap enough to discard when they get loaded and dirty, rather than getting unwrapped and recycled. Most clients prefer small or mid sized green plastic apples because that is what the insects supposedly prefer. Red or large apples that ripen prematurely are also likely to abscise and fall prematurely, before insect larvae mature. Other clients mention that the color is not very important. Adult insects land on many apples trying to find the best one, so are almost as likely to land on a red apple as a green one, just to check it out. If so, red plastic apples are easier to see when trying to avoid them, or collecting them for recycling or disposal.

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