Garden Journal

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Cucumber Beetles

Cucumber Beetle:

The cucumber beetle is another common pest in my garden. I often find them hiding out in the squash flower and on the underside of cucumber leaves early in the morning. You can see that the beetle pictured here is striped. I also have the spotted variety, but the feeding and damage patterns are similar.

The real problem with the cucumber beetle is not there feeding (though a heavy infestation can kill plants). Their biggest contribution to decreased yield for me is through the bacterial wilt and the cucumber mosaic virus that they spread. The wilt actually looks kinda similar to the wilt a plant first experiences when the squash vine borer starts feeding in it. The pic below shows the life cycle and damage associated with the cucumber beetle. I have read that the larva can damage plants, but I have never had a problem with that.

There is a TON of information about cucumber beetle control on the internet. It seems to be a serious problem for organic producers. I have tried a couple methods with varying degrees of success. First I tried to apply a mixture of bacteria that were supposed to infect the beetle and damage their ability to feed. I can not remember the exact name of the bacteria, but it is not that important because it really did not work that well.
I have also heard that rotenone (chemical extract from tropical plant), pyrethrins (discussed below), and Neem tree extracts are effective organic spray controls. I have tried these, but I worry about using these too much around the cucumbers b/c the pollinators love the cucumber and squash plants and these are all very general toxins.
My principle method of control right now is prevention. I choose to grow cucumber cultivars that don't produce the "burp" scent that attract cucumber beetles. There are hybrids that don't have the scent, but I am trying a totally different tactic and growing all Asian cucumber varieties this year. I also rotate the location of the cucumbers so the beetles don't find them as fast. Also I kill every one I find on morning rounds.


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