Making the most of Sticky Traps: How to Effectively Implement this IPM Tool

The 4 different types of sticky traps used in horticulture/IPM best practices in commercial greenhouses in South Western Ontario (Kingsville, Leamington, Canada)

Article by Margaret Nowak, Customer Support Specialist at Ecoation.

What’s the single most effective tool for IPM monitoring?

This is a question with no definitive answer. While ideally IPM monitoring could be accomplished with a single miracle solution, it’s much more complicated in reality. This is why we use a wide variety of strategies to deal with pests, including beneficials, chemical treatments, and traps. What’s most important with any of these solutions individually is that they’re being implemented properly.

This brings us to sticky traps. While sticky traps are one of the most widely used solutions in IPM, you may be using them improperly, or missing out on the versatility they offer. Knowing exactly when sticky traps are most effective will help you get the most out of this simple tool in your IPM strategy.

In this article, we’ll be breaking down all the different purposes sticky traps serve, as well as taking a look at some of the other types of traps that are available. If you’ve ever wondered how you could maximize the effectiveness of these common traps, then stick around to find out. 

Using Sticky Traps as a Method for Direct Pest Control?

One of the most common applications of sticky traps is the direct control of pests through mass trapping. However, there are some downsides to this approach.

These traps come in several different sizes and colours. These different designs serve very important purposes that we will cover later on. The most common style is a roll that is usually applied above a crop. These are used for mass trapping of any problematic insects.

Although these traps are commonly used in an attempt to directly control pest populations, they have some definite shortcomings. This is because sticky traps only work to capture airborne insects. This means these traps won’t work to to curb the presence of insects in immature life stages that cannot fly. These immature insects primarily live on the actual plants, so they are often the one’s causing the most damage.

Also, it’s unlikely sticky traps will be able to eradicate entire adult populations of insects before some are able to reproduce. This shows us that sticky traps aren’t the most effective method when used for direct pest control, especially when being used on their own. They are still effective in curbing reproduction by eradicating adult populations, but they do not address immature insects. For best results, use sticky traps alongside beneficial and chemical approaches.

However, the fact that sticky traps come in several different sizes reveals an additional purpose for them in your IPM strategy.

Why do Sticky Traps Come in Different Sizes?

As already mentioned, sticky traps come in a variety of sizes. We’ve already discussed the large rolls, which are used for mass trapping in greenhouses. But what about the other sizes?

Aside from rolls, sticky traps also come in cards. There are two common sizes, with the large being 25 x 10 cm, and the small being 12 ½ x 10 cm.

The large cards, like the rolls, are most commonly used for mass trapping. They are a good alternative to the large rolls in areas that may not be as affected by pests.

The small cards, while they do capture some pests, are not primarily used for direct control. Instead, they are used for another purpose entirely: monitoring. 

Knowing the enemy is half the battle with IPM, and having an effective monitoring strategy is key to keeping up with the problematic insects in your greenhouse. Sticky trap monitoring is a simple and effective way to stay on top of any potential issues.

If you’re already certain of an infestation, then either rolls or large cards may help curb the problem. As previously mentioned, this would most effectively be done in tandem with beneficial and chemical approaches. 

However, if you’re uncertain of what pests are affecting your crop, small sticky traps are a great option to add to your monitoring strategy. Knowing exactly what pests you’re dealing with, as well as the severity of the infestation, will help you best address the issue. Ideally, sticky trap monitoring will be used to supplement scouting as part of a complete IPM program.

Why do Sticky Traps Come in Different Colours?

While sticky traps come in different sizes to serve either mass trapping or monitoring purposes, why is it that they also come in different colours?

While it may seem to be a matter of preference for the grower, it’s actually because the insects themselves have strong colour preferences. 

Instead of the different colour sticky traps serving purely aesthetic purposes, they are used to target specific insects. The theory is that certain insects are more attracted to certain colours, which is why different colour traps are used for specific IPM strategies. 

The sticky trap colour you will most commonly see is yellow. This is because yellow has a pollen-mimicking effect that attracts many species of insects. Yellow is the colour that will generally attract the most insects.

However, certain pests are more attracted to other colours. For example, thrips are more attracted to the colour blue. This means that if a greenhouse is experiencing a thrip infestation, blue sticky traps would be a great addition to the IPM strategy.

It’s worth noting that it’s much more difficult to count insects on blue sticky traps, so they are recommended for mass trapping purposes only. For monitoring, stick with the yellow.

This covers everything you need to know about basic sticky traps, from their strengths and weaknesses, and the purposes of their different designs. Now, let’s take a quick look at the other types of traps that can be used alongside sticky traps to help create a complete IPM strategy.

How are Pests Monitored using Sticky Traps?

Now that we know sticky traps are helpful in keeping track of pest populations, you may be wondering: how exactly is this done?

When monitoring, scouts should go through greenhouses and replace sticky traps once every 1 to 2 weeks. When this is done, scouts will examine the traps to collect data on the pests being caught. Small cards are usually dispersed in greenhouses at a rate of 6 to 8 cards per acre, or approximately 3 per hectare.

Sticky trap manufacturers like Biobest have taken steps in their designs to make their products easier to use for monitoring purposes. This involves separating the cards into sampling quadrants. 

Scouts can focus on one quadrant at a time, counting how many insects have been captured. Because many greenhouse pests are very small, this helps scouts keep better track of how many insects are being caught. 

Scouts may either focus on counting one specific pest, or these cards can be used to learn more about the various insects in the greenhouse. This information can help with adapting IPM strategies based on the number of different insects present.

When targeting one specific pest, scouts may then use this data to estimate the total population in the area, and the level of threat the pest poses. This level of threat is assessed on a pressure scale. As each insect has a different rate of reproduction, the pressure scales are individualised.

The Future of Sticky Card Counting

While sticky traps have been manually counted for years, this is obviously a tedious and time consuming process. As technology advances, there are much better ways to collect data off of these cards.

Through the Biobest TrapScanner platform built by ecoation, growers can use the cameras on their phone to quickly and easily collect data from sticky traps. 

This is done by uploading photos of sticky cards to the ecoation app, which will then run the images through cloud based algorithms. Ecoation will then provide growers with immediate interpretations of the data through graphs.

This process gives growers the valuable data provided by sticky traps in a fraction of the time as manual counting. 

Another exciting solution for automating sticky trap counting comes from Biobest’s Trapeye. This is a sophisticated AI-based network of mounted stationary cameras which can count sticky traps in real time around a greenhouse. This solution eliminates the need for any sort of manual counting of sticky cards, with replacing the cards regularly being the only step required of scouts. 

By automating the data collection of sticky cards through things like the ecoation platform or Biobest’s Trapeye, less valuable energy can be spent collecting data, and more can be put towards actually using it. 

How do Sticky Traps Work alongside Ecoation’s OKO?

While sticky traps are a very effective tool for monitoring pests, the important work comes after identifying which insects are infesting the greenhouse. This is where Ecoation’s OKO comes in.

The OKO is Ecoation’s ultimate data-harvester for greenhouses, and can provide growers with invaluable information when provided with sticky trap data. 

Once sticky card counts are inputted into the OKO, growers can quickly access graphs and analytics related to the counts that will help them make more impactful IPM decisions. 

Also, these graphs are useful for more than just identifying the spread of pests. These graphs provide valuable insight while conducting experimental treatments in different parts of the greenhouse. This data helps growers see exactly how pests are responding to different treatments. 

While the OKO is a great partner to the data sticky traps provide, its insights could eventually lead to these traps being eliminated altogether. The OKO provides pressure based scouting which will provide similar, if not more detailed, data in terms of population monitoring. With the OKO, infestations will become much easier to detect and eliminate, potentially rendering sticky trap monitoring obsolete.

As the OKO continues to provide analytics, growers should be able to better solve the problems in their greenhouse that are leading to infestation. Through all the data being collected with the OKO, growers may begin targeting and eliminating infestations much earlier. 

As this continues, sticky traps may potentially become obsolete in the greenhouse. Growers will instead only need to monitor their crop for the occasional pest.

Ultimately, the OKO will not only help growers impactfully use the data gathered by sticky traps, but may help eliminate their use altogether through improved IPM strategies. All of this will ideally lead to growers having higher yields and lower operational costs through the season. 


In principle, sticky traps serve the same purpose as any other form of IPM. That is, to ensure a healthy crop through the monitoring and eradication of any harmful pests. As it turns out, they are often more effective at monitoring than eradication, so keep this in mind when implementing them in your greenhouse. They come in many different sizes and colours, so be sure you’re buying the right kind for the specific purpose you’re using them for. 

While it would be great if sticky traps were all that was needed for an IPM strategy, this isn’t the case. For them to be truly effective they need to be used alongside a combination of scouting, beneficials, chemicals, and other traps. However, the more you know about any single IPM tool, the more effectively it can be used.

With the OKO, all the data being collected through IPM strategies can be used more efficiently and effectively. It can interpret sticky trap data to create meaningful graphs and analytics, which may even lead to sticky traps becoming obsolete in a greenhouse. This technology is designed for growers to get the most out of their IPM strategies, increasing yields and reducing costs as a result.


Monitoring with Sticky Traps - UC IPM, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources:

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