Grease bands and tree barrier glues

Grease bands and tree barrier glues (horticultural grease) are a pesticide-free method for reducing the numbers of winter moth caterpillars on fruit trees in the spring. They stop and kill the wingless females from climbing up tree trunks and laying eggs.

Save to My scrapbook
Grease bands used against Winter moth (Operophtera brumata) where it is a reoccurring problem on Apple (Malus). Credit: RHS/Entomology.

Quick facts

Suitable for:  Fruit trees, especially apple, plum, cherry and pear. 
Timing:  Late October- November
Difficulty:  Easy

Suitable for...

If a fruit tree has problems with severe defoliation or reduction of fruit crop by winter moth or a related species, this can be minimised in subsequent years by the use of grease bands. Winter moth caterpillars can feed on developing fruit buds of fruit trees such as apple, plum, pear and cherry reducing the amount of fruit produced though where possible we do recommend tolerating their presence. On ornamental trees the damage should be tolerated as it will not affect the long term health of the plant. The caterpillars are an important part of the biodiversity trees support including as a food source for nesting birds in the spring. 

Note that sticky barriers give no protection against codling moth (the cause of maggoty apples), plum moth (the cause of maggoty plums) or other types of caterpillars. Those moths have winged females that are active in midsummer.

  • Mottled umber moth (Erannis defoliaria), winter moth (Operophtera brumata) and March moth (Alsophila aescularia) have wingless females which, after emerging from the pupal or chrysalis stage in the soil, must climb the tree to mate and lay their eggs. The caterpillars of these moths eat the leaves of many deciduous trees and shrubs during late March to early June
  • Grease bands and tree barrier glues trap the wingless females before they reach the branches and lay eggs. Winter moth is the most frequent of these moths, it emerges as adults during November to mid-January
Grease bands and barrier glues must not include glues that are strong enough to entangle larger animals such as birds, bats or mice.

When to put up grease bands and barrier glues

It is important to time the fitting correctly so that it protects your fruit tree from the winter moth;

  • Grease bands and tree barrier glues should be placed on trunks and tree stakes about 45cm (18in) above soil level in late October, before the adult moths begin to emerge in November
  • Moth activity declines after January, but some species with wingless females are active until April
  • The grease band or glue needs to be kept sticky and free of detritus from late October until April
  • Glue/ horticultural grease is more likely to work on trees without smooth bark as moths can crawl under bands
  • The glue used must not be strong enough to trap animals such as birds, bats or mice 

Products

Choose a product that fits your tree best;

  • Smooth-barked trees: ready-prepared sticky papers can be used (e.g. Solabiol Boltac Greasebands, Growing Success Glue Band Traps, Vitax Tree Bands, Neudorff Greaseband or Agralan Glue Bands)
  • Trees with fissured bark: apply glue/grease directly onto the bark (e.g. Vitax Fruit Tree Grease or Agralan Insect Barrier Glue), this can also work on smooth barked trees
  • Ornamental trees do not need to be protected. Winter moth damage to these trees should be tolerated and the caterpillars are a major food source for nesting birds
  • The glue used in the brands above should not be strong enough to trap animals such as birds and mice 

Problems

Grease bands and tree barrier glues will give no protection against problems such as codling moth or plum moth.

Join the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9

Join now

Gardeners' calendar

Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

You may also like

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.