Trapping Garden Pests With Yellow

Yellow can attract (and therefore trap) two of the worst gardening pests, the destructive cucumber beetle and the dreaded squash vine borer.

yellow plastic cup with cucumber beetles on it
Photo/Illustration: Greg Holdsworth (All photos)

One of the things I wanted to focus on this year was learning more about pests, and improving my skills in controlling them. Sun Tzu in The Art of War said, “To know your enemy, you must become your enemy”. I had a good knowledge of which pests continued to show up every year and menace my plants, now all I had to do was focus on those pests and get the 411 on them. One of the things that started to stick out (pun later in the post), was that two of the worst gardening pests, the destructive cucumber beetle and the dreaded squash vine borer were both attracted to the color yellow.

Yellow Trap Pest #1: The Cucumber Beetle

Striped and spotted cucumber beetles can cause serious damage in cucumbers and melons, primarily due to their ability to spread bacterial wilt. My trap? Something yellow that would attract them, and something sticky to trap them. I’ve used yellow “sticky traps” before, but primarily in my greenhouse against gnats and aphids. I wanted something better that would have more coverage. Walking down the paper and plastic products aisle in the grocery store provided the answer: yellow plastic cups. They were durable and already colored yellow, so I didn’t have to paint them.

But that wasn’t enough. I had to attract them to the cups. Research revealed that essential oils, such as allspice, bay, clove and peppermint mimicked the pheromones of the beetles, thereby attracting them. Since putting the oil on the cup directly won’t work, coating or soaking the oil in a cotton ball is more effective. Finally, I had to trap them once they got to the yellow cup. Enter the greatness that is tanglefoot. Yep, the same stuff that’s used as an insect barrier on trees. It’s very sticky, and will stay sticky for a long time, even through watering and rain. My beetle trap was laid.

The list of things you’ll need:

• Tanglefoot paste
• Yellow plastic cups
• Cotton balls
• Essential oil(s), such as allspice, bay, clove or peppermint
• Knife (or other flat object) to spread the tanglefoot on the cup
• Metal staple gun and staples
• Wood stakes (or other object to hold up the cups)


1. Attach the yellow cups to whatever you plan to use to hold the cup traps up (I used regular wooden stakes)

2. Staple the cotton balls to the cups

3. Spread the tanglefoot thinly, using a knife or other flat wide object

4. Apply several drops of essential oil to the cotton balls

5. Place the traps close to (but not touching) the plants affected by the cucumber beetles

Yellow Trap Pest #2: The Squash Vine Borer

There aren’t many veggie garden pests as feared (and hated) as the squash vine borer. The adult squash vine borer is a wasp-like moth. The real damage, however, is done by the larvae that bores into the stem. In this case, the target for the yellow trap is the adult moth. The moths are attracted to the large yellow flowers that members of the squash family all share. And this, my gardening friends, is the exploit.

I needed something yellow that would trap the moth once it got near it. The grocery or drug store again provided the answer: a yellow frisbee. I already knew that soapy water could be used to drown pests, so it was simply a matter of combining them. My borer trap was laid.

The list of things you’ll need:

• Yellow frisbee, bowl, or other shallow container
• Water
• Soap (I use castile soap, but dishwashing liquid should also work)
• Structure to hold the frisbee up


1. Place the frisbee where you want the trap to be. Unlike the cucumber beetle trap, it can be placed a few feet away from the plants you’re trying to protect.

2. Fill with water and add the soap

3. Check the trap occasionally to maintain the water level

Both of these traps seemed to work well, although it took at least a couple of days to start seeing results. Hopefully the yellow will work for you.

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