Have you ever noticed that you can’t keep certain types of plants in your garden away from bugs? Just as goldfish crackers look more appealing to most kids (and many adults!) than broccoli, some garden favorites attract more insects than others. If we know which crop a pest prefers, say, your garden cauliflower, we can exploit its preference and use these enticing plants as traps.
Trap farming is an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy in which gardeners or farmers use baits to lure nuisance insects out of their crops. Once gathered in one place, they are easier to handle.
Everything you need to know about trap crops fruits and how to use them in your garden! Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:
About Trap Crops?
Insects love plants. But plants of certain species and cultivars, as well as plants at certain stages of development, are often more attractive to garden pests than others.
Use this knowledge to your advantage and strategically grow more attractive plants in or near your garden to lure harmful pests away from your vegetables, fruits and flowers. Your other plants are safe while they are busy feeding on the traps.
That’s not all: Once pesky bugs land on the bait, they can be killed with insecticides or physical removal.
And just like that, you cut the trap!
Also known as sacrificial plants or bait, trap plants can be chosen from a variety of options, as long as pests prefer what you choose over your prized crop.
This pest control method can minimize damage and protect your yields and more.
sounds good? let’s start! Before you start growing baits, there are a few things you need to know.
How to Use Trap Crops
There are several ways to add these baits to your growing space. You can place them between garden borders or rows for a practice called cover planting.
How do you know when to use which method? The decision depends on the type of pest you are dealing with.
Edge traps are great for block-grown fields or crops and keep insects from entering your garden from the edges.
This method is most effective against insects that are not good at flying or traveling distances, such as B. thrips, which frequently attack the edges of planting areas and do not invade the center of the field.
Mixed cultures are better suited to control stronger fly and soil-dwelling pests such as B. plant-parasitic nematodes.
In general, intercropping is the first choice for those with smaller gardens, as they usually don’t contain large chunks of a single crop. Instead, aim to protect smaller rows, beds, and mixed plantings.
You can plant bait in pots or in the ground, but if you need a lot of trap plants, container planting may not be feasible.
Consider using pots if you start using pots early in the season and may need to bring them indoors to prevent frost.
How do you know how much bait to add to your yard?
It depends on how many pests you expect and how mobile each species is. A total number of traps targeting 10% to 20% of the main crop population is usually sufficient.
There are a few other points to keep in mind for effective trap pruning:
1. Start Early or Provide Something More Attractive
The trap must be available to hungry insects earlier in the season, or be more attractive to them overall, than your crops that you aim to protect. In general, two weeks is a good lead time.
Starting the decoys earlier than your main crop is smart, as a large number of pests find plants that are producing flowers, fruits, and seeds to be the most attractive to feed and reproduce on.
But if you’re targeting grubs that are already in the soil and getting ready to emerge and feast, tender shoots and leaves might be more prone to attack.
2. Monitor and Identify Insects
You need to know which pests are likely to invade your crops.
And you can’t assume that trap plants attract any pesky bugs that might visit your growing area more than your vegetables or flowers.
considered on a case-by-case basis. Worried about those hornworms munching on your tomatoes again this year? Planting dill or lovage to lure the larvae is the way to go.
However, if you’re concerned that Colorado potato beetles might come after your potatoes, try a mix of horseradish or tansy.
3. Keep Your Decoys Healthy
Even if they’re not the main attraction in your yard, it’s important to keep these people healthy!
Water, fertilizer, and light factors are important to keep them healthy, so baits are still delicious to pests.
4. Eradicate the Insects
Last but not least, make sure to kill the pests that find the bait.
Part of the benefit of trap planting is that there are far fewer plants to explore than if you were trying to monitor every crop for signs of infestation. But you still have to be wary of them.
Once nuisance bugs are concentrated on your bait, don’t let them eat, multiply and disperse from there.
Pick and treat the pest, drag and destroy all bait or kill it with insecticide if necessary. Less sprayed area also means less pesticide is needed!
As for pulling bait, sometimes you have to remove the trap yourself if the pest problem is severe and the population grows beyond hand picking or pesticide control.
Whichever method you use to destroy them, make sure the insects don’t have time to escape or otherwise escape before re-entering your garden.
Because it’s an integrated pest management strategy, it works best when you combine it with other conservation methods like crop rotation.
Trap Plant Types
How do you decide which species or strain to use when you know they target a specific pest and need to attract that insect more than the crop you’re protecting?
>>> See more: Is it ok to eat greens with bug holes
Thoughtful companion planting is key. You may have heard that marigold is used to protect nightshade, cruciferous, legume, and cucurbit crops from parasitic nematodes.
Cherubs grown in vegetables or ornamental plants will bear the brunt of any slug problems. But most of the strains you choose can control specific pests on specific crops.
The baits can be from the same family, genus or species as those you want to protect, or they can be more distantly related.
For example, Blue Hubbard squash can effectively lure squash bugs and squash vine borers away from other cucurbits.
But if you want to catch thrips before they reach your garlic, basil or marigold can prove effective — and neither species are closely related.
If using the same species as bait, the usual advice is to sow or transplant early and destroy the primary plant before it reaches its vulnerable stage, in the hope that the trapped plant will harbor the greatest initial nuisance insects.
Starting early also means that when the pest arrives, your infested plants may be in a more attractive developmental stage than your main crop.
If you don’t remove the trap from the garden to continue attracting pests while the main crop grows and kills the pests that have accumulated on it throughout the season, you can keep it.
Remember, bait crops are not always as unpopular as vegetable, fruit or flower crops – they can be edible species you like to grow in your vegetable patch, or ornamental that add appeal to your outdoor area plant.
In addition to the above examples, carrots, for example, can be protected from carrot rootflies with onions or garlic, which are more attractive to flea beetles and root maggots than cabbage.
You can use cabbage, mustard, or turnips to protect cabbage from cabbage networms, fleas, and mustard aphids.
Beans can be used to attract leafhoppers, leaf beetles, borers and armyworms away from corn. Hot cherry peppers can be used to lure maggots away from your pepper crop.
There are many resources with specific recommendations for all types of edible and ornamental plants, and the list of possibilities is extensive. Do your research before you plan your plot and start planting!
Remember, you don’t want to pick or eat wormed or infected baits – this is where garden planning matters. Determine in advance what the traps are and be prepared to destroy them if necessary.
In other words, you can enjoy the sunflowers you use to attract leaf-footed and bed bugs, but don’t rely too much on them.
They probably won’t be vases someday because they’re supposed to serve a different purpose.
Benefits and Challenges
Adding bait plants to your IPM strategy will not only reduce pest pressure, it will also keep cabbage and tomatoes intact.
With fewer plants and a smaller spray area, you can reduce pesticide use and stay on budget.
Reducing the use of pesticides also translates into other benefits, including protection of natural enemies (aka good bugs, beneficial insects), increased biodiversity and overall environmental protection, and reduction of potentially harmful inputs that can affect water, soil and air.
Additionally, a variety of plant species will make your garden a more attractive habitat for beneficial insects, where they will naturally congregate.
The concentration of pests in some places can also be very attractive to beneficial insects!
Using this pest control method is not without its challenges, and it’s important to keep them in mind.
If not handled properly, they can turn into nurseries, spawning plenty of fresh monsters in their offspring, rather than helping to eliminate those that are already roaming.
Things can also get complicated when trying to deal with multiple pests in multiple crops.
Additional time is required to manage due to the need to start baiting early, seed in good soil, explore and tend.
To successfully use trap fruit in your garden, you need to know who the insects you are looking for are. It can be difficult, but we have you!
Distract Insects From The Main Event
I like to think of it this way, your plants are like balls you throw to the dog, in this case representing pests.
The dog ran towards the ball with all its strength, but suddenly turned to another target: the squirrel. This is your bait. It’s more fun to hunt down and potentially tastier targets.
As far as your garden is concerned, you don’t actually want the dog to catch the ball, so the squirrels are planted there on purpose.
Have you tried trap crops? How does it work for you? Let Answer The Question know in the comments below!