I am a
new vegetable gardener. Cucumber beetles decimated my cucumbers this
summer. How can I prevent this problem with my cukes next year?
you rightly blame striped and spotted cucumber beetles for your
problems, their feeding damage alone did not kill your cucumbers.
They transmit a disease called bacterial wilt to your
cucumbers as they feed on foliage, stems and blossoms.
Bacterial wilt causes the vines of cucumbers and muskmelons
(sometimes pumpkins and squash, known collectively as cucurbits), to
wilt during the heat of the day. Initially, the plants recover when
it cools off in the evening. However, they soon wilt and die.
Diagnosing Bacterial Wilt
diagnose the disease, cut a wilted stem and touch the ends together.
Pull them apart slowly. If bacterial wilt is the culprit, a white,
stringy exudate will extend between the cut surfaces.
There is no
chemical control for bacterial wilt. Controlling cucumber beetles is
the only way to avoid the disease. Growing young plants under
floating row covers (Reemay or Garden Blanket) physically excludes
cucumber beetles from your cucurbits. Keep them covered from the
time you plant them until they are in full bloom. Allow enough
material to give the plants room to grow, and seal the edges with
soil. Once the plants are in full bloom, the covers must be removed
to allow pollination. By then, the plants are mature enough to
produce a good crop, even if they become infected. If you like, you
can start making insecticide applications to protect your plants
once the covers are removed.
Look at all those fresh Cucumbers!
Controls for Cucumber Beetle
A combination of rotenone and pyrethrum and Sevin (carbaryl) are
labeled to control the beetles. Begin applications as soon as the
seeds germinate or you set transplants out in the garden. Continue
applications at weekly intervals until the plants run and mature.
Although the beetles are present and actively feeding throughout the
season, it is most important to protect the young plants. Mature
plants are less susceptible to the disease, and you are likely to
get a good crop of fruit, even if they eventually succumb to it.
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