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?

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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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