codling moth being attracted to a stylised pheromone trap

Pheromone Traps and Lures

Pheromones are chemical signals that insects use to communicate with each other - male insects are attracted to female sex pheromones to find mates, so this is used to bait a pheromone trap and lures pest species on to a sticky surface.

Pheromone Trap Design

Pheromone trap design varies depending on the type of insect pest targeted. The delta trap, triangular and suspended in crop canopies, exposes the pheromone lure efficiently. Bucket traps use containers with sticky substances to immobilise attracted insects, while sticky panel traps are flat surfaces coated with adhesives. Dome-shaped traps like the dome and sphere traps mimic three-dimensional spaces to capture flying insects. These varied designs cater to the specific behaviours and preferences of different insect species, emphasising the need for tailored structures to optimise trap efficiency in pest management strategies.

How to Use a Pheromone Trap:

Choose the right pheromone trap for the right insect pest.

There are pheromone traps for codling moths, pheromone traps for box caterpillar moths and so fourth - a wide range is  available for a number of pests, including other moths, beetles, flies, and mosquitoes so make sure to choose carefully.

botanical illustration of different pest insects like moths, flies, mosquitoes and beetles around a fruit tree

How to install pheromone traps

Pheromone traps are best placed in a strategic location where your targeted species is likely to be found and at the right time of year. So say I wanted to reduce maggots in my plums and stop my 6-year-old flinging them over her shoulder with a grimace, In May as the plums began to form, I'd put up a plum fruit moth pheromone trap attached to the washing line pole to windward of my plum tree. (Luckily I haven't had to, for the most part my plums are clean and lovely!)

Follow the instructions on the pheromone trap package to activate the lure.

Check the trap regularly and remove any captured insects.

Pheromone Trap Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of Pheromone Traps

The advantages of pheromone traps are also obvious though- no chemicals are used that injure other insects. They are the most specific pest management possible.

Pheromone traps only tarket the specific pest species chosen

Disadvantages of Pheromone Traps 

The pheromone traps' disadvantages are obvious when you use it - they won’t make much of a dent in an established pest population. However, they are most useful in my opinion as a tripwire - once you have caught a few in the trap, you know you may have a problem on your hands and can put in non-invasive controls before there's a full-blown invasion, so they are perfect for monitoring pests as part of an Integrated Pest Management Plan


Environmentally Friendly Gardening with Pheromone Traps

Pheromone traps, utilising insects' own chemical signals, offer a targeted and environmentally friendly approach to pest control. They are especially useful for early pest detection so controls like companion plants can be brought in that repel pests, or biological controls like nematodes can be released in good time. By selecting the appropriate trap and maintaining it, you can protect your garden plants while preserving the natural ecosystem. Pheromone traps represent a small yet significant step towards ecologically sustainable and productive gardening as they help to avoid non-selective pesticide use.

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