A tree laden with succulent fruit is a delight to the eye and taste buds. An apple or plum riddled with insect holes is much less appealing and pest control is necessary. There are plenty of effective solutions such as sprays and insect killers but many people prefer remedies kinder to the environment. Grease wraps are an established and deceptively simple method of pest control that literally stops harmful bugs in their tracks.
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Several varieties of moths, such as the winter moth (Operophtera brumata), March moth (Alsophila aescularia) and the mottled umber moth (Erannis defoliaria) must climb trees while at the caterpillar stage to mate and lay eggs. The hatchlings feed on flower buds, leaves and young fruit causing extensive damage leading to poor fruit crops. While apple, plum, pear and cherry trees are favourite targets, ornamental trees like oak, sycamore, beech, hazel and others are also at risk.
Grease wraps are commercially available from stores and garden suppliers as a pre-manufactured sticky paper. Homemade varieties can be as simple as any absorbent material wrapped securely around the tree trunk approximately 45cm (18 inches) above soil level. The material with a copious coating of a suitable sticky solution such as petroleum jelly catches and traps any encroaching insects and caterpillars that walk on the grease band.
The grease traps need to be employed from approximately October onwards. During the months of November through to January, the wingless female moths emerge to crawl up the trees for mating. This is the critical time to employ this preventive measure in order to stop the caterpillars reaching the high branches where they lay eggs. Other species of crawling pests capable of causing fruit damage are active during later months; therefore this procedure will require regular reapplication to remain effective.
Grease wraps have proved to be an effective solution against many pests for such an easy low-tech idea. While ready made ones are widely available, most homes often have suitable materials readily available to make these simple traps. It should be kept in mind that captured insects provide a ready meal for many species of birds and their young. It is essential that materials such as glues or industrial machine grease that could be potentially harmful to wildlife are not used for this method.
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