Tanglefoot vs Vaseline: Which One Saves The Trees Best?

You’ve probably heard of using Tanglefoot and Vaseline to prevent bug attacks on trees. But now you’re confused about which is the most effective way. 

So, here’s my take on the Tanglefoot vs Vaseline battle.

Tanglefoot is more effective than Vaseline in preventing bug attacks in trees in certain cases. If you use it on a banding barrier, your tree will remain safe for up to 1-2 months. However, Vaseline is less expensive and more available than Tanglefoot. If applied in a thin layer, Vaseline can prevent ants from climbing the tree.

Keep reading the article below to learn more in detail. 

Tanglefoot Vs Vaseline: Quick Overview

Factor Tanglefoot  Vaseline
Anti-bug Protection Protects from different kinds of insects. Only protects ants and ant-like small insects. 
Effect of Temperature Maintains the same consistency in all weather Changes consistency depending on the temperature. 
Application It’s applied on a banding material. Then, placed around the tree bark. It’s applied on plastic wrap or cardboard. Then, placed on the tree bark. 
Supporting Trees Supports Cherry trees and Fig trees.   Supports only Citrus trees.
Non-Supporting Trees Don’t support Apple trees and Bee Hive. Doesn’t support Mandarin Trees and Fruit trees.
Effectivity Works more effectively  Works less effectively
Availability It’s rare to find. It’s more available than Tanglefoot.
Price It’s more expensive than Vaseline. It’s a cost-effective option.

Anti-Bug Protection:

The Tanglefoot and vaseline work almost similarly when it comes to bug protection. But vaseline isn’t capable of protecting the tree from all kinds of bugs. 

For example, the Tanglefoot prevents insects from crawling to the top of the tree. These insects are tussock moths, cankerworms,  army and tent caterpillars, gypsy moths, ants, pecan weevils, and climbing cutworms. But it’s harmful to bee harvesting. 

On the other hand, vaseline can stop the invasion of ants and ant-like small insects. But it’s a temporary solution. The vaseline can dry out or thin down at some point. This leads the insects to attack the trees again.  

Effect of Temperature:

You’ll notice that vaseline is more prone to change consistency than Tanglefoot because of weather changes. When the temperature increases (100 to 130°F), Vaseline tends to get a bit runny. 

As it’s petroleum jelly, the gel stretches and thins out. 

But Tanglefoot is more likely to hold its consistency despite hot temperatures. It has a boiling point of 450°F

However, this bug repellent doesn’t work only when it’s smeared with dirt or insects. In this case, you have to reapply Tanglefoot and prevent messiness.  


Tanglefoot is extremely heavy and sticky. So, you should always apply Tanglefoot on a banding material or plastic wrap first. 

Then, wrap the banding material around the bark. Here, make sure you don’t apply Tanglefoot directly on the bark of the tree. Or else, it’ll affect the tree bark. 

Another application method is to paint the tree and apply Tanglefoot on it. But when you’re applying Vaseline, you can apply it directly on the bark of the tree.

Source: Growing Fruit

However, you should be cautious about applying vaseline to the wood. If you apply a thick layer of Vaseline, you’ll see the tree’s bark area has become dark. 

It happens because the thick layer destroys the Cambium Layer of the tree. Sometimes the bark might get wrinkled like when a Plumeria stem gets wrinkly. 

When the Cambium layer is destroyed, the tree loses its ability to process water and nutrients properly. As a sign, you’ll see that that area has discolored, reduced growth, and callusing.  

So, it’s safer to apply Vaseline on a plastic wrap or cardboard around the tree.

Source: The Helpful Gardener


Now, the Tanglefoot isn’t suitable for all types of trees. According to Tanglefoot users, it’s seen that Tanglefoot doesn’t do much harm if applied directly on cherry and fig trees. 

But it’s not good for Apple trees and bee hives. It creates maggot spheres in Apple trees which worsens the health of the tree. The maggots climb on the fruits and completely destroy them. 

The same rule applies to Vaseline too. Vaseline works well for most citrus trees. But it doesn’t do much good for other fruit trees. If it’s applied directly, it leaves a dark spot on the tree bark and also invites other termites. 

Cost and Effectiveness:

Considering the application process, Tanglefoot is more effective than Vaseline. It costs approximately $18 whereas Vaseline costs $8. But you’ll find Vaseline more available than Tanglefoot. So, if you don’t have any other option, Vaseline is the better alternative to Tanglefoot. 

Impact of Vaseline and Tanglefoot on Tree

Now, here’s another thing you should keep in mind while using Tanglefoot or Vaseline on tree bark. 

A plant or a tree keeps the environment alive through three important processes – transpiration, respiration, and photosynthesis. Applying Vaseline or Tanglefoot on trees can disrupt these processes. 

Types of Process Tanglefoot Vaseline
Transpiration Creates a thick layer on the pores of water evaporation. Creates a thinner layer than the Tanglefoot but inhibits water evaporation like Tanglefoot. 
Respiration Inhibits oxygen intake  Slows down the energy-creation process. 
Photosynthesis Prevents the tree to make its food. impacts the growth of the tree negatively. 

From the table, you can see that both Tanglefoot and Vaseline have a negative impact on a tree’s natural processes. 

Here’s an explanation of the impact of using Tanglefoot and Vaseline on the three most important processes of a tree. 


Both Tanglefoot and Vaseline impact the transpiration process. As the Tanglefoot is a thick gel-like substance, it creates a strong layer on top of the leaves. 

Similarly, applying Vaseline on the leaves will also hinder the pores. So, the plant can’t evaporate water. 

Diving deep, the transpiration process is associated with maintaining the internal balance of a tree. What happens here is that the tree leaves evaporate the water inside the tree to cool the plant. It also reduces any stress or internal pressure and uptakes essential minerals from the root.

That’s why when you apply Tanglefoot or Vaseline on the tree leaves, it messes with the growth of the plant.


Through the respiration process, a tree intakes oxygen and uses it to produce energy. If you apply Tanglefoot or Vaseline on the leaves of the tree and cover the pores, the plant won’t be able to intake oxygen.

So, the tree won’t be able to produce energy. This will directly impact the health of the plant. Eventually, the plant will die from a lack of energy.  


The Photosynthesis process gets impacted by applying Tanglefoot and Vaseline on tree leaves. They create a layer on the leaves that inhibits the plant from receiving sunlight. As a result, the plant can’t make sugar by using carbon dioxide and water. 

Sugar is basically the food of the tree. So, applying Tanglefoot and vaseline will directly impact the food-making process of the tree. 

It’ll impact both the transpiration and photosynthesis process of the tree. The leaves will get dried out and yellow just like Pride of Barbados leaves. Eventually, the plant will die without food. 

That’s why it’s advisable to apply both of the products using a banding material on the tree. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What to spray on fruit trees to keep bugs away?

You can use 3 types of homemade sprays on fruit trees to keep the bugs away. These are homemade oil soap solution, peppermint oil spray, and hot pepper spray. All of these sprays are effective in getting rid of termites and bugs on fruit trees. 

Is Tanglefoot organic?

Yes, Tanglefoot is organic. It’s made from natural gum resins, vegetable oils, and wax. The solution is extremely thick and sticky. It prevents bugs from destroying your tree without doing much harm to the tree trunks.  

How to stop ants from climbing trees?

You can stop ants from climbing trees by creating a banding barrier around the trees. There are multiple ways to create a banding barrier. You can use glue, Vaseline, or even bug-repellent products in this case. This prevents the trees from not only ants but also other termites and bugs. 

Final Words

I hope this article gives you a clear understanding of Tanglefoot vs Vaseline. Clearly, both of them have pros and cons for applying to the tree. So, you should be aware of the consequences while using any of these products.

Best of luck!

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