How to Make a Cucumber Beetle Trap
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These cucumber beetle traps are inspired by directions provided by Susan Mulvihill in The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook. Read our review of that book here; we highly recommend it as a resource for all of your vegetable garden pest questions. Here, we share our experience trying this cucumber beetle trap method as well as instructions for how to make your own.
Cucumber beetles are my arch nemesis. I hate them even more than tomato hornworms, which is saying a lot. They always attack our cucumber plants right when we put them in, eating away at the leaves and leaving skeletons in their place. I can’t tell you how many years I have happily planted cucumber plants only to watch them waste away before my eyes.
So when I got my hands on Susan Mulvihill’s book The Vegetable Garden Pest handbook, one of the first things I researched was how to deal with cucumber beetles. Susan has a lot of recommendations around how to prevent cucumber beetles in the first place (worth reading more so you can get out ahead of them). Unfortunately, it was too late for me to prevent cucumber beetles because I was already in the thick of it (again). I needed a solution for getting cucumber beetles away from my plants. So, I turned to her instructions for making a cucumber beetle trap.
Cucumber beetle traps are a non-toxic, natural way to address cucumber beetles so that your cucumber plants can get some relief from the constant barrage of insects. They will grow stronger and eventually be able to hold their own against diseases and bugs.
All About Cucumber Beetle Traps
The basic premise behind a cucumber beetle trap (and other traps like it) is to lure the pest away from your plant and eliminate it (sorry, this one kills the bugs). In the case of the cucumber beetle, you use a clove-infused oil in a yellow cup (they’re attracted to both the scent and the color) to attract the bug away from your cucumbers. You use a sticky painted surface to trap them. Like other “sticky traps,” the bugs land and get stuck so that they cannot return to your plants.
As described above, you need a few things to attract the cucumber beetles and something sticky to catch them. In our version of Susan’s trap we made our own clove-infused oil, in which we soaked cotton balls. We then placed the cotton balls in yellow plastic cups which we painted with Tanglefoot insect barrier (a very sticky substance designed to trap bugs getting into your fruit trees). You’ll also need some twist ties to attach the trap to a stake or to your support structure if your cucumbers are set up to grow vertically. Scroll down for more specific instructions.
Cucumber beetles are flying insects, so a trap can be placed up off the ground. You’ll want to put it on a stake, or tie it directly to a support structure. The cut should be placed close enough to your cucumber plant to attract the beetles that are headed to the plant, but not close enough that it will touch the cucumbers.
Yes, we have found that these simple-to-make homemade cucumber beetle traps are effective at luring the beetles away from your plants so that the plants can grow stronger. The nice thing about these traps is that the bait and sticky substance are inside a cup, so it lasts through rain and other weather. Once your plants have gotten strong enough the trap may no longer be needed and you can likely take it down. We also like that this solution is nontoxic and does not rely on chemicals or other treatments directly on the plant.
How to Make a Cucumber Beetle Trap
- Yellow Plastic Cups (or plastic containers painted yellow)
- Tanglefoot Insect Barrier (or similar sticky coating for traps)
- 1 tsp Cloves
- 1/2 cup Oil (vegetable or olive)
- Cotton Balls
- Hole Punch
- Wooden popsicle stick or metal paint scraper
- Twist Ties
- Stakes (if your cucumber does not have a trellis)
- First, make your clove oil. Gently toast the cloves on medium heat in an empty saucepan for about 5 minutes or until their scent is noticeable. Add the oil and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the cloves to infuse the oil for a day or two. Alternatively, you can buy clove essential oil.
- Add your cotton balls (as many as you are making traps) to the clove oil and allow them to soak up the infused oil till they are coated (if you are using essential oil you only need a few drops on your cotton balls)
- Using a popsicle stick or scraper, put a smear of Tanglefoot on the bottom of your yellow plastic cup then drop the oiled cotton ball down into the cup where the stickiness will hold it in place.
- Use your hole punch to punch 2 holes in the cup about 1/2 inch apart from each other parallel to the top lip of the cup.
- Now, use the stick or scraper to paint the cup with Tanglefoot all around the inside (and outside if you want to cover all of your bases).
- Your trap is ready; use the twist ties to attach it to a stake or to your trellis if your cucumbers are planted near a trellis. Place the cup just above the plant not close enough to touch the leaves. Hang it sideways so it will not collect water, and monitor it regularly to see if it is working. Move it if the plant gets too close to the stickiness.