Sticky traps for insects: how do they work?


I grew up on a small, organic family farm and after a gap year spent working on an American ranch, I started studying agricultural science. Soil, organic farming practices, and plant science are what I am most drawn to. At home, when I'm not in our garden, you can find me in the kitchen, cooking and baking with our harvested fruits and vegetables.

Favorite fruit: Even if a bit boring - apples
Favorite vegetables: Bell peppers, red beets, zucchini, white cabbage

Bright yellow sticky traps can be found in many gardens. Find out how to use sticky traps for insects and precisely which pests they can help to combat.

Many insects stuck on a sticky trap
Many insects are attracted to certain colours, and sticky traps make use of this [Photo: Manfred Ruckszio/]

Anyone who has ever been to a nursery will be familiar with the sticky, brightly-coloured sticky traps hanging from the plants. These traps help with pest control by making use of insects’ stimuli to control or drive them away. Sticky traps trap certain insects by exploiting the fact that they are attracted to certain colours. These insects then stick to the glue. While pheromones are not usually necessary, using them in adhesive traps with them can make them even more effective.

What are sticky traps?

Sticky traps are coloured paper or plastic boards that are dyed the same colour on both sides and coated with glue. The insects get stuck to this glue, stopping them from being able to bother your plants.

What types of sticky traps are there?

Sticky traps for insects come in several different colours, as different insect species are attracted to different colours.

Yellow sticky traps

Yellow sticky traps are the most well-known sticky traps. Many insects are attracted to the colour yellow, which is why yellow sticky traps are so effective against fungus gnats and whiteflies, for instance. You can buy yellow sticky traps for insects in our online shop. If you would like to know more about the yellow glue traps and which pests they can be used for, visit our article about yellow sticky traps.

Yellow Sticky Traps 20-pack
Yellow Sticky Traps 20-pack
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  • For detecting infestations early on and monitoring pest populations
  • 20 double-sided yellow sticky traps (or 40 smaller traps) to hang from plants or stick straight into soil
  • Odourless & insecticide-free

Blue sticky traps

Blue sticky traps are another type of sticky trap. Blue sticky traps are especially used to control or monitor thrips.

Blue sticky trap hanging near tomatoes
Thrips are a big problem in tomato cultivation, but blue glue traps can help with that [Photo: AJCespedes/]

White sticky traps

White sticky traps specifically target California flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), the apple sawfly (Hoplocampa testudinea) as well as plum sawflies (Hoplocampa minuta or Hoplocampa flava). White glue traps can also be used to monitor and catch the raspberry beetle (Byturus tomentosus).

Red sticky traps

Red sticky traps are used for the pear blight beetle (Xyleborus dispar). This pest is particularly common in orchards and vineyards. It attacks apple trees (Malus), cherry trees (Prunus) and pear trees (Pyrus) by boring into the wood and laying its eggs there.

Red sticky trap hanging from branch
Red sticky traps are often used in the cultivation of fruit [Photo: Badon Hill Studio/]

Orange sticky traps

Orange sticky traps are used for the carrot fly (Chamaepsila rosae). These pests not only attack carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus), but can also damage celery (Apium) and parsnips (Pastinaca sativa).

How do sticky traps work?

Sticky traps work by making use of the fact that insects are instinctively drawn to the respective colour of the traps as well as the light reflected by them. Many insects are attracted to the colour yellow, for instance, as it is the colour of flowers containing nutritious pollen and nectar. This causes the insects to fly towards the traps and get stuck in the glue.

Insects stuck on yellow sticky trap
Sticky traps are mainly used to control adult pests [Photo: Valeria Viktor/]

Tip: You can reuse most sticky traps simply by scraping off the trapped insects and coating the surface again with the appropriate glue.

Using sticky traps for insect control

Generally, sticky traps are only used for monitoring pest infestations and not directly as a control method. The traps only attract adult insects, but it is usually the larvae that live in the soil that do the actual damage. There are also always a few insects that do not fall victim to the trap, so they are still able to reproduce. Nevertheless, using sticky traps for insects makes sense as they can help detect infestations at an early stage and allow you to act quickly to take measures to tackle the problem. As they also allow you to detect infestations more easily and monitor pest numbers, the traps also help to gauge how successful your control method is.

Close up of pest larvae
Glue panels have no effect on pest larvae, which often cause the greater damage [Photo: Tomasz Klejdysz/]
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