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7 Posts
June 9, 2020 - 6:11 pm

Does anyone know if tanglefoot (the sticky stuff used to stop ants crawling up the trunk of a tree) can be used directly on the trunk of fruit trees ? The instructions recommend wrapping the tree and spreading the tanglefoot on the wrapper but I would prefer to apply it directly to the tree. Wondering if this will harm the tree ?


622 Posts
June 9, 2020 - 9:01 pm

I don't think it will harm the tree.  But it's nasty, and persists, and will get on you - difficult to clean.

I vaguely recall I may have done that 15 years or so ago on a cherry tree.  Once.

NE Portland, OR Cully Neighborhood
212 Posts
June 10, 2020 - 10:19 am

I agree, one time w/o a wrapping is enough of a lesson.

The wrapping should not degrade too rapidly, but not promote girdling either. I used some paper-like product developed for the purpose. Under that, against rough bark, I used cotton futon stuffing to plug the crevasses. Ants are really able to adapt and find their way around barriers; tall grass, under plantings etc., will bridge past low lying bands. High bands directly on the bark will catch you during every visit for pruning, thinning, harvesting. For years the stuff stays sticky. You may need to replenish the bands when they become overburdened.  Another pro for banding material.

Tanglefoot is also used to cover the Apple Maggot fly red globe/attractant traps. Better minds than mine figured out if you but a disposable baggie on those before you paint them up, you'll be more likely to reuse them next season. I don't think anyone wants to learn what process and solvents one would need to clean off the Tanglefoot. Traps get pretty gross with targeted and non target carcasses. 

1400 Posts
June 12, 2020 - 2:39 pm

On smooth barked young trees I used Tanglefoot directly on the bark with no negative results beyond an eventual dirty band at the end of the season.  The following season, I’d smear another ring of it above or below the first, onto ‘fresh bark.’

As noted, ants will use any natural bridge, like tall grass or fencing to bypass the sticky stuff.  The ants appeared to be tending Aphids, and would return bloated with their juice, interesting to watch after just applying Smile 

As my trees aged and their bark thickened, they appeared well enough established not to need the treatment.  But for young trees, I’d recommend it.

7 Posts
June 20, 2020 - 6:47 am

Thanks for the responses.

I am very familiar with the difficulty in removing Tanglefoot. I used it one a decade ago to deal with a carpenter ant problem and I can still see greasy spots where it was applied.

Viron, it is an aphid/ant problem that led me down this path. I ended up wrapping the trees but some ran down off the wrapper an onto the bark on a hot day so I am glad to hear it will not kill the tree. Seems to be working so far.

84 Posts
August 16, 2020 - 1:23 am

Last time I looked for "Tangle Foot"  I had zero success.   Nobody had it.  Moreover, nobody knew what it was.  

Instead, I brushed molasses, or molasses and Boric Acid, over the offending surface.  I was fighting with ants.  They were climbing a composite support beam, up the front of my house.  Then onto my roof, down again, and into my bedroom, where they were attempting to eat me alive.  Tiny little Brazilian Ants.  Carnivores! 

Very unpleasant.   Molasses held them off, pretty much, as long as I re-brushed with a moist brush every day or so, to keep it sticky.  But the tiny ants,  found cracks and crevices that allowed them to detour, and continue their pilgrimage.

Tried wrapping fly-paper around the boards.  Cheap, via The Dollar Tree.  Seemed to keep 'em away, but the ants are persistent and they find alternate ways, to achieve their nefarious goals.

So Molasses can be helpful, if you are persistent.   And fly paper, seems to foil them, also.

But, don't expect an ultimate and final triumph.     The enemy, will not quit!

78 Posts
October 2, 2020 - 7:34 pm

Ants mark their trails with formic acid that they exude from their bodies so they can find their way back and forth and let other ants know where the goods are to be found.

You can neutralize the formic acid by washing with baking soda solution which is non toxic to trees trunks (and floors and countertops). This confuses the ants and they will wander around having lost the trail until one of them recreates it later on.

Zone 6a in the moraines of eastern Connecticut.

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