Aphids, Ants, Tanglefoot

If I coat apple tree trunk with Tanglefoot, does that do anything to get rid of ants already up in the tree or simply prevent more from joining them?

Ants in the tree will be ambushed by the tanglefoot on the way down. They can’t just stay in the tree.

Excellent. Thanks. Question does tanglefoot just discolor bark or does it damage bark?

Do not apply Tanglefoot directly to the bark of any tree. It can heat up and “cook” the cambium layer. You need to wrap paper tree wrap or cut brown grocery bags and wrap them around your tree, first. Then, apply the Tanglefoot. It will trap other things as well, so watch for lizards and small birds getting stuck to your trees.

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Well I already applied directly to the bark. Will have to somehow remove it

Well gosh. Sorry, Steve, wished we could have intervened, sooner! Fortunately, you’re not in the hot western part of the USA. Their directions actually state to wrap the tree trunk.


Not sure there is a way to get it off the bark without damaging the tree, itself. It will discolor the bark, I think pretty much permanently. What I would recommend at this point, is to leave it be. Next time you need to apply, use tree wrap, and then apply :slight_smile:

Thanks. I also found this thread discussing possible bark damage


Here in southern California I’ve visited many homes with sick fruit trees only to find them girdled by Tanglefoot. In my opinion, there are so many other solutions I don’t know why anyone uses it.

Yes, it really can “cook” the cambium layer here in our warmer weather. I have seen it very well applied, though, in several different yards. One yard, down on the coast, the homeowners are both engineers, and their garden reflected their ability to design things in a very logical, sensible and very useful manner. They did such a good job in applying Tanglefoot to all their fruit trees, using brown plastic grocery bags and twine. I was amazed. The owner said the setup lasts several years, and they can re-apply the Tanglefoot every season. I was amazed. I don’t use it because the one time I did, I had two of my nice fence lizards get stuck and die in it. So, opted to control ants in other ways.

Update- Just discovered four more young apple trees girdled or partly girdled by Tanglefoot. The damage was hidden under spiral trunk protectors. So I dropped everything and put two bridge grafts on each one and tied off the tops to a support post so the trunks won’t move in the wind, until grafts take.

I had used Tanglefoot for years at a previous orchard I owned, directly on the bark, but those trees were a bit older I guess in hindsight. Was banking on my prior experience which lead me astray.

These trees are loaded with rare grafts which I hope I don’t lose. Will know in a month or two, have done all I can do now. Live and learn.

So- Don’t put Tanglefoot directly on bark of young trees, ever. Method number 29 to kill fruit trees.

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I was thinking about this issue two days ago when I applied Tanglefoot on the masking tape that I wrapped around all my cherry trees. Some ants walked right on it while I was applying Tanglefoot. Served them right.

I hope your bridge grafts will work and that those trees are saved.

I don’t do any fruit trees but cherries. They get the most black aphids’ attacks.

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This video covers Tanglefoot application very well, IMO.



As a “garden doctor”, my experience with tanglefoot in southern california is that it is something for most homeowners to avoid. Now if you’re a dedicated gardener that might be a different story. However the casual gardener will put it on their trees and then not revisit it. After a few years the tree is girdled and starts die-back with rootstock sprouts. Tanglefoot looks like an easy solution for casual gardeners but they don’t understand the long-term problems.

Can I use the painter’s masking tape from Home Depot?

Well, if you’re knowledgeable, Tanglefoot will work to keep ants and other crawling insects including snails out of your trees. By knowledgeable, really, all that means is “read the directions on the label” :slight_smile: You must apply it onto something else, like trunk wrap, never ever directly to the tree bark. Even mature trees here in S. California can end up with the cambium being fried. I was on a really wonderful garden tour through SD Hort Society, where a couple who were both civil engineers had used Tanglefoot very successfully on all their fruit trees. But, it was applied with some thought using this product in our hot sun. They had wrapped something (cannot recall what they used, it was novel, that’s all I remember), and they made sure that the wrap was always intact prior to reapplying. What I find amazing is right on the product label, it states to fasten a waterproof wrap around the tree first, and then apply the product to the wrap. Tom, I would not use painter’s masking tape. That is not waterproof, nor will it stay stuck or stay intact being exposed to the sun’s UV rays and heat. I would apply a waterproof tree wrap. Tanglefoot actually makes a wrap specifically for this purpose. I don’t use Tanglefoot (any more), because I had just too many lizards, snakes and birds get stuck to it.

I’m going to reply to my own post here, because it sounds, well, it sounds not very nice. And that’s not at all my intention. Steve, my apologies if I sounded like I was lecturing, that wasn’t my intent. Let me explain a bit: First, I’m one of those people who “always reads the directions”. Mainly because I’m always afraid I’m going to make a mistake with something. When I first heard about Tanglefoot, I read the label, and it said to apply to some sort of wrap. And, in talking to folks in my area who were knowledgeable about it (the garden center I purchased it at, CRFG and SD Hort Society members), I probably had 10 if not more folks all say, “whatever you do, do not apply it directly to the trunk of your trees, or you’ll fry the cambium layer.” I was very fortunate in getting some great advice right out of the gate, plus I live in a really warm, sunny area, and folks have learned the hard way out here why you have to apply Tanglefoot to wrap. That being said, I know many, MANY people have successfully for years applied Tanglefoot directly to the trunks of there mature trees in less intense sun area without issue. Steve, I don’t want you to think I was lecturing you. I was very fortunate to receive some wise advice early on. Plus, being a rather compulsive label-reader, I was the benefactor of some helpful advice with my first application. I was responding to Richard’s post about casual gardeners perhaps not using this product wisely. And, certainly, if they do not read the label or get wise counsel, it could be pretty disastrous. I think our high quality garden centers would provide wise counsel. Not so sure on the big box stores (if they stock it). Steve, for you being in MD, where the sun’s rays are less intense, I can see where using it on more mature trees would probably be something you could easily get away with. Here where I live, we’re just too hot and too sunny to risk it, and anyone who gardens either knows or would be told if they purchase this product in a quality garden center.

So, please accept my apologies if I sounded judgemental. No my intention, and I’m very sorry about the damage you’ve sustained, especially to trees with rare grafts. That is so frustrating, and so scary. It was good you posted, because I am sure others will heed your advice, now.

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Maybe, i am one of those lazy gardeners :grin:. I have used tanglefoot to prevent ants climbing up trees to farm black aphids on my cherry trees for the past five years.

I do not apply tanglefoot directly to the trees, young or old. I am not particular about what materials I use to wrap/band the trees as long as the sticky side is out and I can easily apply tanglefoot to their surfaces. I have used masking tape, grocery bags cut into long strips, etc.

They all work as long as I wrap tightly enough that ants cannot crawl under, make a 3-4" wide band and apply tanglefoot generously.

I remove the bands during the season if the surfaces are covered by ants and other debris and apply new ones. I remove them all in the fall. Never use anything professionally made but I only have a few trees.

Thanks for your kind words Hoosier. I’ll know in a month or so whether any of these will make it: Myers Royal Limbertwig (LT), Black LT, Royal LT, Green Pippin, Hunge, Paducah, Magnum Bonum, Milo Gibson, Boskoop, Red Rebel, Democrat.

Thankfully I have insurance scions in the frig and will try to find places to graft them tomorrow on my older trees or on friends’ trees. Knowing me, I need insurance scions!! Live and learn.

Well, I’m just heartbroken for you that these really rare and hard to find cultivar grafts might be jeopardized. Hoping your bridge grafts will rescue the trees.

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Sorry to hear that @hambone . One thing I found in researching the tanglefoot technique is its almost 100 years old. But even way back then they were advising not to put it directly on the bark.

I have put it on bark and never had problems, but not on apples - only peach, plum and cherry (and not on really young trees either). I am wondering if apples are more sensitive. Raw neem is another thing I have slathered all over stone fruit trunks without any problem (its the ultimate borer control), but someone lost some apples from a similar treatment…

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