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    3 Homemade Pest Traps for Your Garden

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    3 Homemade Pest Traps for Your Garden

    Spring is almost here, which means that soon it will be time to plant…and fight off pests. Losing a little harvest to critters is a normal part of growing food, and homesteaders know to grow a little extra to “share” with feathered and furred visitors. But the year-round pests that decimate your crops are a different story altogether. Aphids, slugs, tiny insects, and borers can ruin a season without even trying.   

    Once they have a foothold, battling pests can massively drain your time and energy, but there are plenty of non-toxic ways of controlling these pests early on. Trapping and killing pests is the easiest and most effective way to deal with pests before they can get established.

    There are lots of commercial trapping products that work, but they can be pricey and, in my opinion, are not much better than the homemade versions. Read on for some instructions on how to make your own pest traps, protect your garden, and enjoy more time and bounty this year.

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    Cabbage Leave Eaten By Slugs

    Sticky Traps for Tiny Insect Pests

    Some of the most insidious garden pests—aphids, flea beetles, whiteflies, and thrips—are so small that they can hide in plain sight. This wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t able to lay ruin to entire rows of plants overnight. Sticky traps are the most effective way to head these tiny monsters off at the pass. The key to capturing these little jerks is the color yellow, which they find irresistible.

    Pointing At Yellow Pest Trap

    You can use paper cups, plates, index cards—almost any flexible, bright yellow surface will do. Thrips are supposed to prefer the color blue, so if that’s your target, plan accordingly. Coat the surface with a thin layer of vaseline or other non-toxic sticky covering and then mount the traps on bamboo canes, fencing, or stakes near the plant canopy.

    Check the traps daily, and replace them as soon as they have collected a lot of insects. If you are using them in a greenhouse, put them in areas where pests enter the space: near doors and vents.

    Sticky Pest Trap in Garden

    Cutworm Protection

    If you’ve ever fussed over seedlings indoors for weeks or months and then had them chopped down within days of transplanting, you know the pain of the cutworm. This pest is actually the larvae of certain moths; they hide in the soil during the daytime, venturing out at night to feed. This almost invisible menace can lay waste to your delicate seedlings, undoings months of cultivation overnight. But you can do something about it.

    Collect paper towel and toilet paper rolls all winter. Cut the tubes into three-inch long sections, and push each section down into the soil around the seedling, so that only a half-inch or so is visible. This will protect seedlings and will also biodegrade as the plant grows. Okay, so this might not be exactly a trap, but still a great way to protect fragile seedlings from being cut down before they even have a chance in life.

    Cucumber Beetle, Aphid, and Vine Borer Traps

    Is there anything worse than one day seeing a squash vine looking lush and thriving and then finding it wilted and sad the next? Squash vine borers are the bane of many gardeners’ existence, but there is a simple solution: a yellow pan trap. Ideally, you want to use a wide, shallow yellow vessel (like a frisbee) to attract the borer moths.

    It should be filled with water with a few drops of liquid soap added to help trap insects by breaking the surface tension to trap and drown them. Borer moths fly by day and are readily identified by their distinctive black and orange coloring. Even if your traps don’t catch them all, they’ll alert you to their presence so that you can use a secondary means of pest control, like spraying BT onto your squash vines.

    Open Bottle Trap

    If your garden is full of beneficial insects like bees or lacewings and you worry about trapping them in an open trap, there is an alternative method you can use. By using a bottle or jug with holes tailor-made to match the size of your target insect, you can eliminate friendly garden insect casualties.

    I found it difficult to make accurately-sized holes in my flimsy bottle, so I tried a few techniques:

    • Filling it with water and freezing it before attacking it with a power drill.
    • Cutting the bottle in two parts and using a hole punch to make holes.
    • Heating a metal skewer with the flame on a stove burner and then melting holes into the intact bottle.

    The last method yields the best results, by far.

    Bottle With Holes Trap

    Slug and Earwig Pit Traps

    If your garden is showing signs of becoming a nighttime snack bar, slugs and earwigs are the most likely culprits. These pests munch on seedlings, ornamental flowers, and the tender leaves of many vegetables.

    Slug in Garden

    Slugs, like many other night-dwellers, enjoy swilling beer with friends, and that’s how you trap them. Place a shallow dish with an inch or so of beer on the ground in a high-traffic slug area (one where you see damage and “snail trails”) and leave it overnight. The slugs will come for a drink and then fall in and drown.

    Dump the trap out often, and don’t worry about wasting good beer: the cheapest stuff will do just fine.

    Shallow Dish of Beer in Garden

    Earwigs are elusive little beasts—they are rarely seen by day, but you will know they’re there from their trail of destruction. These pests are complicated: they can be beneficial due to their role as “sanitary engineers” cleaning up dead and decaying insects and plants. But when there are too many, they can do damage to your living plants, and that’s when it’s time to start trapping.

    An earwig trap can be as simple as a cat food can or another such shallow dish with a thin layer of vegetable oil and a little dash of soy sauce in the bottom. Dump out the traps daily until you aren’t catching any earwigs anymore.

    Don’t worry if you put out your traps and nothing happens, that’s actually a good sign! Just keep them out as your warning system, alerting you to the presence of pests so that you can take action before they become a problem.

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