Decoy Trap Plants – How To Use Trap Crops For Controlling Insect Pests
What are trap crops? Use of trap crop is a method of implementing decoy plants to lure agricultural pests, usually insects, away from the main crop. The decoy trap plants can then be treated or destroyed to eliminate the unwanted pests. Trap crop info is usually geared to large growers, but the technique can be used successfully in the home garden too.
Trap Crop Info
Interest in trap crop info has increased in recent years, along with the growth of interest in organic gardening and a growing concern over pesticide use, not only for its potential to harm animal life, including humans, but because spraying can destroy beneficial insects. Trap cropping is generally most useful in larger plantings, but can be scaled down depending on the crop and trap used.
In order to learn how to use trap cops successfully, think in terms of a specific pest and learn its preferences for food sources.
How to Use Trap Crops for Controlling Insect Pests
There are two basic ways for how to use trap crops.
Same species – The first is to plant several decoy trap plants of the same species as the main crop. These decoys are planted earlier than the main crop and serve as food for the insects. After the pests have arrived, but before they’ve had a chance to attack the “real” crop, the decoys are treated with pesticide or are destroyed.
This works particularly well with larger plantings, and using decoy plants around the perimeter helps since pests generally work from the outside in. Blue hubbard squash is an excellent trap crop for attracting and retaining cucumber beetles, squash vine borers and squash bugs.
Different species – The second method of how to use trap crops is to plant a completely different and more attractive species of decoy trap plants. For example, sunflowers are extremely attractive to stink beetles and leaf-footed bugs, but must be planted early so they bloom in time to intercept the bug’s migration.
Once the destructive insects have arrived, the gardener can use his preferred method of elimination. Some gardeners choose to use pesticides only on the decoy trap plants, thus reducing the amount of pesticide used, or to destroy the infected plants completely. Other gardeners prefer the more organic methods of netting, vacuuming or hand picking to remove the unwanted insects.
Decoy Trap Plants for the Home Garden
While articles on how to use trap crops abound, specific trap crop info is scarce, particularly for the smaller home garden. The following list is compiled to give the home gardener ideas for using decoy plants, but is by no means complete:
In addition to using decoy plants such as the above, other plants can be used to repel invading insects. Chives will repel aphids. Basil repels tomato hornworms. Tomatoes repel asparagus beetles. Marigolds are not only detrimental to nematodes; they repel cabbage moths, too.
Will using decoy plants completely eliminate your insect pest problem? Probably not, but if reducing the amount of pesticides you use in your garden or increasing yields without pesticides is your goal, learning how to use trap crops may bring you a little closer to your ideal garden.
Using trap plants successfully
Features - Pest Control
Trap plants can be used with biological controls and/or traditional pesticides programs
A trap plant is a plant that is different from the crop being grown and is more attractive to one or more pests than the crop itself. A trap plant can also be called an indicator plant.
Trap plants are not limited to growers who use biological controls. Trap plants can be used by growers who manage pests with traditional pesticide programs. These plants can be used as an early detection system for pest problems.
There are different trap plant systems available. The following are two common trap plants being used by commercial greenhouse growers.
Bean trap plants usually show signs of two-spotted spider mite damage much sooner than most other ornamental crops like New Guinea impatiens. Bean plants, two-spotted spider mite
One of the most commonly used trap plants is for the early detection of two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae). Since mites are not able to fly, they are often missed by scouts who are focused on using sticky cards for monitoring pest populations. Two-spotted spider mite is often not detected until there is a considerable amount of damage to a crop.
Bean plants are most commonly used as trap plants for two-spotted spider mite. Bean plants are one of the mite’s favorite food sources. The bean plants in many cases are more attractive then the ornamental crop itself.
Regular bush bean plants do very well at attracting mites. Bean seed is cheap and most ornamental plant growers have containers and growing media available so it is easy to implement a detection system.
Bean plants usually show signs of two-spotted spider mite damage much sooner than most other crops. For example, three or four adult mites on a bean leaf show the characteristic yellow speckling feeding damage on top of the leaf.
The same three to four mites on a New Guinea impatiens plant don’t show any initial signs of damage. It is not until there are many more mites on the plant that damage symptoms appear on the leaves. By that time it is much harder to control the overall population. In some cases the damage is so severe that the plants can’t be salvaged. Bean plants can be used as indicator plants in traditional pest management programs that incorporate pesticide applications.
For growers who are using biological controls, bean plants can act as both trap and banker plants. Banker plants are plants that are different from the primary crop being grown. Banker plants can assist in establishing, supporting and maintaining a population of one or more biological control agents. Predatory mites such as Phytoseiulus persimilis and Amblyseius californicus, and the predatory midge Feltiella acarisuga can be released as soon as spider mites are detected on bean plants.
Another benefit of trap plants is that for many crops the spider mites don’t migrate to surrounding plants until the bean plants show signs of over population. By the time this occurs, the bean plants have started to deteriorate from the damage.
Bean plant considerations
When using bean plants as trap plants growers need to manage the spider mite population. Otherwise the bean plants can become excellent mite producers. This is why biological control producers often use bean plants for the production of biological control agents. If bean plants are used to monitor spider mites and the plants are not managed properly, they can produce large numbers of mites. It is important to use bean plants as part of a monitoring system. The plants need to be checked on a regular basis.
Bean plants won’t work as trap plants for all ornamental crops. Thunbergia is extremely attractive to two-spotted spider mites and comparable to bean plants in their attraction. In these situations where the ornamental plant is very attractive to spider mites, growers should consider implementing preventive releases of biological control agents.
Bean plants are also very attractive to thrips and possibly aphids. Growers who are using biological control agents should release the biologicals on both the bean plants as well as on the ornamental crop being produced.
The number of bean plants placed in a greenhouse can vary. It depends on the crop and how much production space a grower is willing to give up in order to detect the spider mites earlier in the crop cycle. The earlier the detection of spider mites occurs, the better the chance of control and the less chance of plant loss.
In spider mite susceptible crops 40 bean plants per acre is considered the minimum. Better detection results usually occur when 60-80 bean plants per acre are used.
Gerbera, eggplant and whitefly
Both gerbera and poinsettia are very susceptible to whitefly. But they are not as attractive to whitefly as eggplant (Solanum melongena). Eggplants are also extremely good host plants for the reproduction of greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum).
On gerbera one female adult greenhouse whitefly produces approximately 200 eggs in its life time. On eggplant that number increases to around 800 eggs.
Both cut and potted gerbera growers are using eggplants as trap plants. In most cases the plants are part of a pest management program that includes biological controls. In these situations eggplant is a trap plant for greenhouse whitefly and a banker plant for biological control agents.
During the past two years gerbera growers, particularly those producing potted gerbera, have had a difficult time controlling thrips. Part of the problem has been associated with the development of pesticide-resistant thrips populations. It is, however, not possible to implement biological controls for thrips and to continue applying traditional pesticides for whitefly control.
Using biological controls on gerbera can only be successful if a pest management strategy is in place for all common pest problems, including whitefly, thrips, two-spotted spider mite and aphid. Eggplants placed in a gerbera crop are used first as trap plants, but very soon after whitefly is detected, the whitefly pupa are parasitized by the parasitic wasps Encarsia formosa and Eretmocerus spp. Detection of whitefly on the eggplants usually triggers the release of the whitefly predator Delphastus pusillus. This small beetle can eat up to 160 whitefly eggs per day, almost the same amount that one adult female whitefly produces in her life span on gerbera.
Both cut and potted gerbera growers are using eggplant (back left) as a trap plant. Poinsettia, eggplant and whitefly
Eggplants do a very good job of attracting greenhouse whitefly away from poinsettias. Whitefly also reproduce very well on eggplant, which can act as a banker plant for Encarsia formosa, the parasitoid for greenhouse whitefly.
For sweet potato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci, B- and Q-biotype), eggplant does not have the same effect. This whitefly is attracted to eggplant, but not to the same degree as greenhouse whitefly. Also, sweet potato whitefly does not reproduce well on eggplant.
For poinsettia crops, the number of growers using eggplants as trap and banker plants has decreased. This is especially true for growers who have been using biological control agents for a few years and have become experienced and successful without eggplants. However, for starting growers, eggplant can be an excellent educational tool to see pest and biological control agents in action.
Using eggplant is not limited to only those growers who incorporate biological controls. Eggplant can also help determine if pesticide applications are effective.
Borage is another amazing annual to include in vegetable garden polycultures. This is another edible flower, that can be very much at home in amongst your fruits and vegetables.
It is very easy to grow, and self-seeds readily. It’s great for bees and acts as a trap crop for aphids, so it also attracts the predatory insects that eat them. It is also great for birds.
Borage also breaks up and aerates the soil with its root system, and is a dynamic accumulator of nutrients that can be chopped and dropped, turned into a liquid feed, or added to your compost heap.
Trap Crops: Your Garden Pest Control Companion
If you’re considering alternative gardening methods, we hope these trap-crop tips help your plants thrive this coming season. Trap cropping is a safe, effective form of companion planting for non-toxic garden pest control. In that same spirit, Jobe’s is proud to provide gardeners with natural and organic alternatives to traditional garden products. From soil amendments to fencing and netting, we have everything you need for a healthy, bountiful garden.
11 Ways to Rid Your Garden of Pests
There are many things that can be done in your garden to help control the unwanted critters and insects that find the veggie plot (or your prized roses) their tasty treat for the day. Attracting birds and good insects, thoughtful companion planting, and even hand-picking some of the bugs and placing them in a bucket of soapy water are all ways to stop them from treading on your turf.
Especially annoying are the bugs you don’t see, like the ones that are eating holes in my pepper plants. That’s when I pull out the homemade spray …
#1. FLOWER CHICK’S GARDEN POTION
I love using natural pest control throughout my home and garden. This natural pest control spray is ideal for keeping those pesky critters away from your plants. If you have a natural and organic garden that is thriving, this is going to be your best resource to keep your plants safe this summer!
Here’s the recipe and what you’ll need:
1 tablespoon of dish washing liquid
1 tablespoon of cooking oil
Here’s What To Do:
Combine the first five (5) ingredients in a bowl and then pour the mixture into an empty gallon milk jug via a funnel. Then, fill the jug with water and shake to mix.
Pour as needed into a spray bottle and apply to your plants. The cooking oil and dishwashing liquid help make it “stick” to the plants. Reapply after it rains.
The critters don’t like the taste (who would. ) and it doesn’t harm your flowers or vegetables … Try it out for yourself and see!
#2. CHUG-A-LUG SLUG!
One of the simplest ways to get rid of slugs is to pour them a beer. Literally. An inexpensive, cheap beer will do the job just as well as a pricey craft beer.
I have had great luck using good ‘ol Pabst Blue Ribbon! Pour some in a shallow dish or bowl like a used margarine container or tuna can and then sink it into your garden near where you’ve had pest damage (they especially like to munch on my hostas).
I’ve read that the slugs are not attracted to the alcohol, it’s the yeast or yeast by products that ropes them in. They crawl into the beer, take a sip, and drown. Problem solved!
#3. PLUCK THE OFFENDERS – BATH TIME!
These iridescent buggers gravitate towards roses, fruit trees and shade trees.
Japanese beetles are slow. You can easily pick them off plants with your hands (wear gloves if you are squeamish) and toss them into a bucket or empty coffee can of soapy water. Do this in the morning when the beetles are less alert.
Per the Old Farmer’s Almanac, geraniums contain a substance that temporarily paralyzes Japanese beetles, making them susceptible to predators. Geraniums therefore are often used as “trap plants” for the pesky bugs. The same with zinnias.
#4. MORE ON TRAP & DECOY PLANTS …
What exactly are trap plants? The use of trap plants or crops is a method of implementing decoy plants to lure agricultural pests, usually insects, away from the main crop. The decoy trap plants can then be treated or destroyed to eliminate the unwanted pests.
Interest in trap crop information has increased in recent years, along with the growth of interest in organic gardening and a growing concern over pesticide use, not only for its potential to harm animal and human life, but because spraying can destroy beneficial insects.
Here are some examples of trap crop plants: dill attracts tomato hornworms, collards lure cabbage worms, nasturtiums beckon aphids, and sunflowers are a beacon for stinkbugs.
For more info on trap plants, visit this site: Trap & Decoy Plants
#5. EGGSHELL POWDER IN THE GARDEN
Using eggshells as an organic pest control method is inexpensive, and easy!
To prep the eggshells, grind with a mixer, grinder, or mortar and pestle and till them into the soil. Because it takes several months for eggshells to break down and be absorbed by a plant’s roots, it is recommended that they be tilled into the soil in the fall.
Finely crushed shells mixed with other organic matter at the bottom of a hole will help newly planted plants thrive. (Tomatoes especially love calcium) You can also try mixing your eggshells with coffee grounds, which are rich in nitrogen. A recipe for happy plants!
#6. COMPANION PLANTING FOR THE VEGGIE GARDEN
Try mixing in some marigold plants in your rows. Marigolds can help with a number of pests including cabbage worms and aphids.
- Planting cucumber with your corn is mutually beneficial. The cucumber plants will help keep the raccoons off of your corn, while the corn will help reduce wilt in your cucumbers.
Mix parsley into your carrot rows to help repel the carrot fly.
Oregano can be planted with broccoli to help repel the cabbage butterfly.
#7. DEER ISSUES? PLANT WHAT THEY DON’T LIKE
Fuzzy or hairy foliage:
Deer don’t like fuzzy or hairy textures against their tongues. Deer-resistant garden plants in this category include the lambs ear, lady’s mantle, brunnera, nicotiana, tuberous begonias, yarrow, ageratum and many others.
Also disliked by most deer are plants with spines on their leaves. They generally avoid plants such as: acanthus, globe thistle, sea hollies, and russian sage.
Are you having issues with rabbits nibbling on your annuals and perennials? If so, check out my favorite problem solvers here:
#8. ATTRACTING BIRDS TO EAT THE OFFENDERS
Use birds to your advantage in controlling bugs by first identifying the bug problem. Once the offenders are identified, you can then take steps to attract those birds whose diet includes those insects.
To attract birds that eat garden pests: Rule No. 1 is don’t use chemicals, including lawn chemicals, to control insects. Save the money you might spend on pesticides and let the birds do the pest control work for you.
When June bugs and Japanese beetles start chomping on the leaves of your favorite garden plants or their larvae turn into grubs that eat roots of grasses and start destroying your lawn, it’s time to fight back.
You can do that by attracting birds such as tree swallows, barn swallows, purple martins, eastern phoebes and great crested flycatchers to your yard. Large flying insects comprise a significant portion of the diet of these birds.
For more info on attracting birds to your garden: Attract Bug-Eating Birds
#9. MAKE A SOAP SPRAY INSECTICIDE
A homemade soap spray is also effective for controlling mites, aphids, whiteflies, beetles, and other hungry little buggers!
Here’s how to make it:
Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of a mild liquid soap (such as castile soap) with 1 quart of water, and spray the mixture directly on the infected surfaces of the plants.
A soap spray insecticide works in a similar fashion as an oil spray pesticide, and can be applied as necessary … though it is always recommended to NOT apply it during the hot sunny part of the day, but rather in the evenings or early mornings.
#10. CHILE PEPPER INSECTICIDE SPRAY
Chile pepper spray is a great homemade, natural repellent that can be used for a variety of different pests … including our neighbor’s cat who was using our garden as her litter box.
This spray can be made from either fresh hot peppers or chile pepper powder. To make a basic chile spray from pepper powder, mix 1 tablespoon of chile powder with 1 quart of water and several drops of mild liquid soap. The mixture can be used full-strength on the leaves of affected plants.
To make chile spray from fresh chile peppers, blend or puree 1/2 cup of peppers with 1 cup of water, then add 1 quart of water and bring to a boil. Let sit until cooled, then strain out the chile material, add several drops of liquid soap to it and spray as desired. Be sure to wear gloves when handling them!
#11. LADY BUG, LADY BUG, STAY IN MY YARD …
Attracting ladybugs is one of the top wishes for many organic gardeners. Ladybugs in the garden will help to eliminate destructive pests like aphids, mites, and scale. Getting ladybugs to come to your garden, and more importantly stay in your garden, is easy once you know a few simple facts and tricks.
Sometimes, rather than wait for ladybugs to appear in our garden, it’s easier and faster to simply purchase some ladybugs. The problem then becomes, how do we keep the ladybugs we just purchased in our garden after we release them?
First, realize that the same things that you do to attract ladybugs will also help keep ladybugs in your yard. Making sure that there is food, shelter and water will go a long way to making your garden look like a good place to settle down and lay eggs.
Second, you need to help give yourself a day or so to convince the ladybugs that your garden is a good place to live. When you receive your ladybugs, place them in the fridge for a six to eight hours. This will slow them down (but will not kill them) and keep them from flying right off when you open the container.
Third, make sure you release them at the optimal time. Right after dusk or right before dawn is the perfect time to let your ladybugs go!
Facing unwanted “guests” in the garden? Try any combination of my above 11 tips to help control the unwanted critters and insects in your vegetable or flower garden plots. They have worked for me!
We hope you found this post about dealing with pests in the garden useful. Let us know your thoughts and what you do to combat insect and animal pests in the garden by visiting our contact page …
6. Use Coffee Grounds
After you have made your hot coffee. Do not just throw away the coffee grounds! It works wonders for your garden.
Spread it out all over the ground of where your crops are growing. It will prevent many bugs from catching the scent of your crop.
This works for squash plants and other plants as well.
It is also a good mulch and will add nutrients to your garden soil.