How to Use Tanglefoot

Tanglefoot is a very effective, natural pesticide product for trees that helps them combat the over-wintering bugs that cause damage to your trees in the spring. These insects include gypsy moths, canker worms, weevils, ants, caterpillars, moths, cutworms and more.

If you’ve never used this product before then I’ll share with you a few helpful tips on how to use Tanglefoot to make it an easier task. Tanglefoot is OMRI rated and certified for organic gardening.

“The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is an international nonprofit organization that determines which input products are allowed for use in organic production and processing”

What is Tanglefoot anyway?Tanglefoot Natural Pesticide

It’s an earth friendly pesticide made from a naturally occurring gum resin. It’s a very sticky substance that resembles thick, cold corn syrup or soft wax.

It’s a unique product that, when properly applied it traps the crawling insects that are using the trunk of your tree as a highway up to where they’ll burrow and nest in the bark for the winter and then wreak havoc on your the tree in the spring. It’ll even catch flying bugs that get too close as well. 

It’s easy to damage the bark of the tree without knowing how to apply this product properly.

By the end of this page, you’ll know how to get it on and off the tree whilst not getting it all over yourself.

Are you ready?

Which Tree Wrap to Use

Protecting the bark while helping the tree fight pests is really important. There are a couple of different options when it comes to choosing what to wrap the tree with.

Never apply Tanglefoot directly to the bark of the tree

If you live in a warm, dry area then you can use cardboard tree wrap. But if you live in a wet rainy area, then the cardboard tree wrap will disintegrate in the rain and won’t last or be effective at all.

If you live in an area with a lot of rain, all you need to do is use the standard plastic wrap from the kitchen as the “tree wrap”.  Since I live in a rainy area, I use the plastic wrap method.

Applying Plastic to the Tree

Prepare the Tree with Plastic Wrap

Apply the plastic wrap and Tanglefoot in the early spring and mid-fall to get maximum effect.

It’s important to leave the plastic on for only one or two months at a time, don’t leave it on for an extended period. Don’t leave it on all winter.  

The tree breathes through its bark so take off the plastic as soon as it’s not needed.

Cotton Balls

If you have a mature tree, especially a cherry, the bark is very lumpy and bumpy with a lot of cracks and crevices in it. It’s important to pack those crevices with cotton balls before wrapping the tree in the plastic. If you skip this step, the bugs will just walk right under the plastic and also the bands of Tanglefoot unobstructed.

However, the young trees that we commonly plant in containers are usually pretty smooth so you shouldn’t have to use cotton balls for them.

Method of Application

Cake Spatula for TanglefootUse a putty knife or a cake decorating spatula.

If you choose a putty knife be very careful with the corners as they are very sharp and can easily cut the bark of the tree. It’s really easy to do and can cause significant damage to the tree. Using a plastic putty knife like this one is a good way to avoid that kind of damage.

Personally, I use a cake decorating spatula because they are flexible with rounded edges and also that’s what happens to be handy, since I’m a baker too.

The Steps

  1. Wrap your tree in plastic film
  2. Soften up a glob of Tanglefoot with the spatula
  3. Work it into a smooth lump without strings back to the container
  4. Apply the product in a thin 1″ wide band a few inches from the top of the plastic all the way around the tree creating a complete circle
  5. Drag your spatula in the same direction that you wrapped the tree with the plastic. (If you go the other way you’ll just pull the plastic off)
  6. Make another band of Tanglefoot a few inches down from the first band. This creates 2 barriers that work together to stop the pests from walking up your tree. If they get past the first one they won’t get past the second.

Female Winter Moth

One of the main culprits is the female winter moth. She cannot fly, so she walks up the tree trunk to lay eggs in the bark and crevices of your trees branches. 

After she lays the eggs, all the adults die and then the eggs over-winter in your tree. They hatch in the spring when the temperature returns to about 13º C (55° F). 

When the eggs hatch, the worms crawl out on the branches of the tree and eat any and all new sprouts on the tree. Then they produce a silk thread to drop down on and float in the wind to another tree to continue to spread their destruction further. 

When to Apply It

The best times of year to apply this product is in October and March. Leave the bands on for about one month (two months maximum) then remove the plastic. Discard the plastic wrap when it becomes full of bugs and debris, ineffective or the product gets washed away in the rain. 

The winter moth is considered an invasive species in many areas and a big problem for orchards and growers on both the west and east coast.

The winter moth is in the class of pests called “defoliators”. Their name describes exactly what they do, they defoliate, which means they eat the leaves of your tree completely and virtually any shrub or green growing thing they can find.

It’s good practice to incorporate natural Tanglefoot  into your pest control regime to combat these pests as well. Tanglefoot works well on ants, earwigs and all manner of crawling garden insects as well.

Occasionally, Tanglefoot will catch a beneficial insect that isn’t intended for it, but the cost of that is far outweighed by all the destructive bugs that do get stuck.

Your trees will thank you for learning how to use Tanglefoot correctly and they will likely produce a better harvest in the coming year.

See the sequence of images below for visual details.

When it’s time, carefully remove the plastic by rolling it inwards on itself and dispose of it in the garbage. It’s incredibly sticky and it takes a little skill to not find yourself covered in it.

If you do get some Tanglefoot on the tree bark itself or your tools, then use mineral spirits or baby oil to remove it. You can also use a citrus based cleaner like this one. 

Good luck and let me know if you need further help.


Large 15oz Tub of Tanglefoot

2 pack – 15oz Tubs of Tanglefoot

15 oz Tub of Tanglefoot With Tree Care Kit

Extra Large 5lb Tub of Tanglefoot

Tanglefoot Paper Tree Wrap – 150 feet  

34 thoughts on “How to Use Tanglefoot”
  1. I live in southern east Ontario and have a big linden tree, some 25 years old, with a very large trunk full of crevices. It leaked a lot of a sticky black liquid last year, probably due to an infestation of some pest. I would like to know (1) if the tanglefoot will stop the pest from coming back this year and (2) why it would be really bad for the tree to apply the tanglefoot directly on the bark.

    1. The black liquid oozing out of the tree is caused by a bacterial infection called “wetwood”. It’s not due to a pest so the Tanglefoot wouldn’t be effective in this case. Wetwood can be treated but it’s not going to go away and will most likely spell the end of the tree.

      Did the black ooze just start last year? or has is happened longer than that? This is what I found on “Bacterial wet wood is a bacterial infection that attacks the trees trunk. As the bacteria multiply, it creates pressure within the trunk that escapes through the trunks bark and typically looks like a black oozing slime from under the bark. Please see this link for more info and how to treat it if you want to do that.

      I just recommend not putting the Tanglefoot right on to the tree bark because it’s not easy to get off when it becomes ineffective and unsightly and also the trees breathe through their bark.

      1. Hi Stacy, I thank you very much for your reply. But I realize that my description of the problem was no accurate enough. In fact, the black liquid does not come from the bark, but from the leaves as soon as they are fully formed. The problem began last year, It is so bad that when you walk on the terrace under the tree, your shoes become sticky. I tried to put the tanglefoot on a band of paper around the trunk, but after a bit of rain, the band got saggy. That’s why I think of applying the product directly over the bark. I know the tree breathes through the bark, but would it be really bad if it is just a small band of one or two inches ?

        1. Ok, no problem. The black stuff oozes just from the leaves? Do the leaves appear otherwise healthy? It sounds like some type of mildew but I’ll try to figure out what this is for sure. Do you see any aphids around the tree or more specifically on the leaves?

          I recommend using plastic wrap around the tree if you live in a rainy area. Also, it’s good to use cotton balls to plug up the cracks and crevices under the plastic wrap so the bugs don’t have a way to walk under the plastic.

          1. Thanks Stacy. Yes, I think the problem was due to aphids. Leaves have not yet begun to form, but I shall do as you suggest. Cheers.

          2. Ok good stuff. The aphids produce honeydew as they suck the fluids from the tree. This fluid attracts and provides a perfect environment for “black sooty mold” to form which is the black stuff you are seeing. Do you see ants in your tree as well? If you do, then the ants are attracted by the sweet honeydew and then they start “farming” the aphids so that they produce more honeydew and that exacerbates the problem greatly. Also the Linden tree is very susceptible to this problem anyway.

            I’m thinking the best thing to do in addition to Tanglefoot around the trunk is to spray it with dormant oil spray in winter or early spring. If there is no sign of any green yet then you can do it now but if there is any green showing then it’ll have to wait until the leaves are gone again. Ladybugs are a great way to combat an aphid problem as well. Let me know how it goes. Good luck!

  2. I just heard of this tanglefoot, the tree already has growing fruit & ants. Is it to late to apply to tree.

  3. Stacy thank-you for all this helpful information as to how to apply the Tanglefoot” This will be put to use in October in the hopes (if done correctly) we will have edible cherries the following year

    1. You’re most welcome! I’m glad it helped. Let me know how it goes in the fall. The Tanglefoot should work well for you.

      1. Peach tree which has given a lot of fruit the last couple of years. Last year the ants really got into the fruit though. Also we’re in high desert in California.

        1. Have you noticed any aphids on the tree by any chance? How old is the tree? The Tanglefoot will help catch the ants walking up and down the trunk. If the tree branches are touching any fences or other structures then the ants will use that route and go around the Tanglefoot bands, trim if necessary.

    1. Yes it’s ok.
      The Tanglefoot will withstand a lot of rain before it starts to dissolve off. Keep an eye on it and if it seems to be washing off then reapply it on a dry day.

  4. A much belated thank you for your response to my paper vs. plastic question above. Sorry it took me so long to respond. I still haven’t ventured into the plastic film — as I’ve just explained in a post (where you feature prominently) — but I still plan to. Some day! Thanks again for your website. It’s an amazing resource!

    1. You’re most welcome! I’m so glad the information I gave was so helpful! Thank you very much for featuring it on your own website too, it’s an honour to be there!

      I’m glad you’ve found a method that’s effective for you and good for your area. The brown paper wrap definitely looks like it’s working well for you!

  5. We have a real issue with Winter Moths, last year they defoliated all the trees in my yard completely. I was thinking of using this product however, I am concerned for the squirrels that live in the trees. I don’t want this to harm them. Yes I know I like squirrels.

    Can you please advise on how I could use this product without harming the squirrels?

    1. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it, it’s a natural non-chemical product. It’s just a seriously sticky one.

      All you need for the winter moth is the two bands of it three or four feet off the ground on the main trunk for a few months of the year (applied at two different times). The squirrels will just avoid that area and choose a different way up the tree(s).

      However, I did find other sources that say Tanglefoot is a good barrier for squirrels. But in my opinion it’s not, they’re smart (meaning they won’t just walk straight into the Tanglefoot goo and get stuck) and they can also jump long distances…including over the bands of Tanglefoot.

      They’ll adjust and be fine. You should be able to make a great reduction in the winter moth problem without causing any issues for the squirrels. Let me know how it goes.

  6. Can this product be used around roses to deter aphids or mites? Has anyone used them to protect roses?

    1. I don’t think Tanglefoot would work on roses. It would be very difficult and prickly to apply. This product only works on the insects that walk up the tree branches and stalks. A lot of aphids are capable of flying short distances and could just skip right over the sticky barrier.

      I recommend making a natural pesticide spray yourself and spray it on the affected plants. Garlic oil spray is good but it’s non selective. This means that it will kill the aphids as well as the beneficial insects such as ladybugs who love to eat aphids.

      Try a tomato leaf spray. Take 2 cups of chopped tomato leaves and soak them in 2 cups of water for at least 12 hours. Next, strain out the pieces of leaves and add that liquid to a large spray bottle, then add 2 more cups of water. Your total mixture should equal about 1 litre in volume. Spray this on the rose bushes. It should kill the aphids quickly. Reapply as necessary. Then you can hose off the plant with plain water once they all die.

      Good luck! Let me know how the spray works for you.

    1. I wasn’t able to find home recipes for anything that would produce a Tanglefoot like product and result in stopping insects. The consensus seems to be that there aren’t any comparable home recipes. I did however, read that some people have used petroleum jelly on the plastic wrap instead but I never have and don’t know how well it works.

  7. I’ve read it recommended to use tanglefoot on yellow boards to trap whiteflies. Looking at the viscosity of the product in the pictures here, it’s hard to imagine spreading a thin coat evenly over a large flat surface. Is there a way to dilute it with to a sprayable solution that would evaporate down to a sticky surface? Or is it easier than I’m imagining to spread on a large board? Surfaces might be as large as 2′ x 3′.


    1. I agree, I think it would be a bit hard to spread it evenly on a large area using the product cold and “as is”. But I think you should be able to put some in a manageable size container and microwave it for just a little while to soften it up to more of a syrup type of consistency. Then you should be able to spread it pretty easily across the board. It should retain all of it’s stickiness that way.

      I don’t think diluting it down to a watery consistency would work, you’d most likely just gum up the sprayer nozzle and parts. I doubt the resin would recover to it’s previous viscosity thus causing the product to be less sticky and effective.

  8. Hi, thanks for the great post, found it when I went to remove tanglefoot. Unfortunately, I put it on my plum tree, somehow completely missed the “do not apply to fruit bearing trees ” in the directions. I have removed the tanglefoot, will the fruit be safe to eat? I am
    not sure what to do now. Do I need to destroy the fruit? Lots of birds and deer help meeat it.

    1. Hi there

      Did you apply plastic or some type of wrap to the tree before putting on the Tanglefoot? or is the Tanglefoot actually on the bark of the tree?

      I re-read the label on the package I have here and it says not to apply it “directly” to young or fruit bearing trees, this means not to put it right on the bark of the tree.

      The fruit you have will be fine, I’ve used it on cherry trees for years. Tanglefoot is not poisonous to the fruit, you, animals or anything else. It’s fine to use on all trees.

    1. No it’s not harmful, they’ll be fine as far as the product goes, it’s a completely natural gum resin that isn’t any danger to them. They’ll most likely avoid it and use other branches for getting around.

  9. Great post, and the photo play-by-play is the best resource I’ve found online! Thank you. This is my first foray into fruit tree pest tangling (wrangling?), and I’m curious about your preference for plastic wrap instead of the paper/cardboard option proposed by the manufacturer. I’m guessing you’ve tried both and decided that the plastic wrap works better? Would you be willing to explain the pros and cons of plastic instead of paper? Hoping to get this right the first time! 🙂 Thanks.

    1. Hi 🙂
      Thank you! I’m happy the pictures are helpful for you. You’ll do just fine, the hardest part is keeping it off of yourself and your clothes! I have a few reasons for the plastic.

      The method that I show here (with the two stripes/plastic/cotton balls) was the way I was taught during my first experience with Tanglefoot, I didn’t even know about the cardboard at that point. It wasn’t until I started working in a retail nursery a few years later that I found out about the cardboard wrap.

      I think the cardboard wrap could be good if your tree is perfectly smooth, as it leaves gaps that the bugs can walk under unobstructed. It might work ok if you put cotton balls under it and secure it tightly to close those gaps though.

      Also, I don’t choose the cardboard because I live in a very rainy climate and the cardboard would disintegrate in no time at all. If your area is less rainy then it would probably be ok. I prefer the plastic too because it holds tight to the bark and stays put for the month or two that it’s on there.

      I’ve just continued to use the plastic/cotton balls method because it was simple and used items I already had at home, there wasn’t an additional product that I needed to buy.

      It’s just important to get the plastic off when the season is done or when the Tanglefoot becomes ineffective, the plastic allows no airflow for the bark. This would be a benefit to using the cardboard.

      Tell me if any of that helps and let me know how it goes on application day! 🙂

      1. I’ll second the cardboard in rainy climate comment! I followed the manufacturers recommendation with their paper wrap. One rainstorm and the bands were around the bottoms of my trees. The crinkled paper relaxes a little when wet and then slides down the tree. I tried tightening them up again, but the whole situation repeated the next time it rained. I am trying the plastic wrap method now-we will see how it goes. The inherent waterproof nature of the plastic wrap has my hopes up. The price is a lot nicer too. I paid around $20 for 150′ of the recommended paper at my local garden center. For half the price, I picked up 3000′ of plastic wrap at BJ’s with convenient built in cutter, self-clinging property, and multiple other uses for unused product. The plastic wrap is also wider and catches more of the inevitable drips of Tanglefoot. The trickiest part is getting between the trunks of close growing multiple trunk trees. A little ingenuity and a stick got me through that though.

        1. Well done! Glad you figured out a way to get the job done. The rain makes it a little more tricky but the plastic wrap method has always worked well for me and it costs almost nothing.

  10. I have a problem with squirrels jumping onto the 4X4 cross members to my bird feeders. Would this substance dissuade the varmints from hanging there to reach the feeders? This sounds like just the ticket to solve the ant problem we have had with hummingbird feeders. Thanks, Bruce

    1. Hi Bruce

      Squirrels definitely are a bit of a challenge, they are crafty and acrobatic as I’m sure you know. The Tanglefoot won’t make a difference or deter them.
      Do your feeders have cages around them? You can make one or some feeders on the market are already enclosed in cages with small holes that the birds can get through but the squirrels cannot. Physical deterrents seem to work best.

      Cayenne pepper. You can mix a little cayenne pepper in with the bird seed. Mammals are sensitive to the heat of the capsicum but birds are not. The squirrels will likely move on to a less spicy meal. Also, using Nyger or Safflower seeds may help too, it’s not their first choice in food.

      Regarding the ants, are the feeders hanging in a tree? If so, you can apply the Tanglefoot on the branch it hangs from, before and after the feeder. That will catch any ants coming from within the tree. If not apply it to the most accessible branch…it’ll help some. In the past my feeders got clogged with spiders as well, Tanglefoot won’t stop them either.

      You can buy “Ant Moats” to hang above the feeder too (this would catch the ants and that the Tanglefoot misses).

      As a third option, you can choose to hang the hummingbird feeder under an overhang outside a second floor window. Choosing this location will stop many (if not all) of the ants.

      I hope this helps, let me know how it goes!

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