Time for Tanglefoot trunk wrap

Among the frustrating insects in my orchard, ants and aphids have been an issue for some fruit varieties.

Ants crawl into figs when ripe, resulting in a surprise crunchy texture that moves around on the tongue. I’m also concerned ants cause mold to form inside the juicy sweet figs.

On sweet cherries, I’ve had problems with black cherry aphids. I’m not sure, but I have a theory those aphids are farmed by ants. Either that, or they travel up the trunk themselves.

Each year in the late spring, I apply a fresh plastic wrap and cover with Tanglefoot. This is a good time to do that.

First, I cut strips of plastic from polyethylene grocery store bags. I cut about 6 inches wide, and the length of the bag, which when cut open is a couple of feet.

Then I wrap as tightly as possible around the trunk, two times around, and tie a square knot. These bags are flimsy, and do not girdle the tree. Pulling too tight, the bags tear. It’s easy to learn just how tight to make them.

Then I squeeze a line of Tanglefoot around the trunk, on the plastic. I spread it over the plastic with the back of a disposable plastic spoon. Disposable because once it’s on the spoon, a nuclear explosion would not clean it off the spoon again.

This has worked well for me, for many years. As long as I remember to do this, the figs do not get ants and the cherries do not get black aphids. Last year I was sick, could not apply the Tanglefoot, and both happened again. In the winter, I pull off the old wrap / Tanglefoot to let the trunk breathe. That may not be necessary, but I like doing it.

I do not want to appear to be endorsing a product. I imagine anything similar would work. I tried Vaseline but it gradually ran down the bark. Possibly, plastic sticky tape, applied with sticky side out, would work as well. Axel grease might work, but might behave the same as Vaseline.


All my trees get tangle foot also. For me, wearing a latex glove and smearing it around the trunk is the fastest and easiest way to apply it. I just us nursery tie tape around the trunk.


Will it eliminate aphids?

Looking good!

I haven’t refreshed my tanglefoot in several years, but I am watching for the aphids and will jump on it if they show up.

This year I am thinking of trying raw neem paste, its not as bad for the bark so can be applied right on it. I put it on the lower trunks of my peaches last winter and so far I have not seen a single pile of sawdust from a peach tree borer. The trunks are still dark, it seems to last a long time.

That’s an interesting idea Bear.Does the sunlight degrade the plastic very much?I use masking tape,with the sticky side out and Tanglefoot.I’ll have to try your idea.The tape is not much fun to remove.One guy wrote that some ants were getting through,by crawling underneath.I told him to put a small amount of Tanglefoot,either at the top or bottom of the wrap,to straddle trunk and wrap.But Steve’s picture gave me an idea.I have some 3M rubber tape and a couple times around at one spot,should block any small crevices. Thanks,Brady

I use the flagging tape. The bags look like they work good too and they are free. The ants do farm the aphids. They eat the secretions the aphids make. I think they call it honey dew. If you put it on to thick it will run down off the bags in the heat from the sun. I noticed it on my trees. I like putting thin layers of it. The one mistake I’ve made is driving by with the lawn mower and plaster the tap with grass. Oops!

Thanks for the illustrated tutorial. Tanglefoot was on my mental list of things to order this week because the ants this year seem worse than most - not just the fire ants, but what I think are imported Argentine ants, and at least a few more types. They are traveling up and down the younger trees, trying invade the beehives, all over the grape vines. Since they don’t seem to be interested in leaving here and finding a picnic ground, I’m going to have to make their trails impassable, instead.

Tanglefoot is only good for insects that climb trees. The green flying aphids may not be affected. My cherry trees get a black aphid that I think are farmed by ants because. I think that because there are always ants around them. When I use tanglefoot, I don’t get ants and I don’t get the black cherry aphids.

Brady, I haven’t seen any issue of sunlight degrading the plastic during the time I’ve been using Tanglefoot. I only leave it on from Spring to Winter.

I’ve noticed a lot of ants on my trees. Are they beneficial or do they cause harm. I just ordered some tanglefoot. I suppose it will stop the ants.

I tried tanglefoot on those guys last summer and it didn’t seem to help. Those green guys are my #1 aphid problem now. I have to do many oil or soap sprays on them, I wish there was a better way.

@speedster1, if you don’t see any aphids or scale the ants are probably not causing problems. There are little things I forget the name of at the base of some cherry leaves that ants get nectar from, it harmless.

The ants like to eat the aphid poop. They are standing guard there to chase the lady bugs and other insects away from eating the aphids. You can watch it happen if you stand there long enough. Its a war at the top of the tree. When you put tangle foot on the ants cant protect the aphids and the lady bugs will eat them up. When an ant sees a lady bug it chases it down. You will notice more lady bugs after the tangle foot is up if you have aphids. You can spray the aphids but then your killing lady bugs too. I think spraying works better but waiting and letting the lady bugs find the aphids is a good option for people who don’t like spray. I’ll spray when there seems to be no lady bugs and the aphids seem to be damaging the leaves. I’m sure someone has made a video of aphids farming ants and chasing lady bugs.


@Bear_with_me Here is a video of the ants ant lady beetle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxkqj6RfNNE

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This is a good article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071009212548.htm

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Wow both links are amazing!

I do have a lot of lady beetles around. And aphids are pretty rare since I went no-spray. Maybe that’s why.

@SteveM I use a latex glove too. I go around and do all the tape then backtrack with the tangle foot. Then you don’t have to deal with a sticky hand other than putting the sticky stuff on.

Scott- wasn’t there another Tanglefoot thread where someone phoned the manufacturer who said their product does not damage bark? Do you think that’s correct? Thanks.

I don’t remember such a thread. The use of tanglefoot for this purpose is very old, books from 100 years ago mention it. In those books I recall reading studies where they found bark was damaged in a way that harmed the tree. That said, I have used it directly on 30-40 mature trees and none of them showed any bad effects.

While I am posting on this topic I am getting more and more positive on the neem paste for peachtree borer. By this time of year I am usually seeing many piles of sawdust goo at bases of infected trees, and I see none this year - just dark bark from the neem. If I need to do some ant control I will try the neem.

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Scott do you put it all over the trunk?

For ants you just need a ring anywhere on the trunk - I have mine a foot up and maybe 3" wide. Make sure there are no gaps in the ring.

For borers I put it from about 3" up from the ground to maybe 2" under the ground (dig back the dirt then put it back when done).

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