If you have ever grown cucumbers in your vegetable garden, then you have probably come across the cucumber beetle a time or two. If you have grown cucumbers before and never seen cucumber beetles on your plants, then you are lucky. Entire crops of cucumbers and squash can be lost due to this pest insect.
This little insect can be one heck of a nightmare for your cucumber plants. Here’s some information on identifying cucumber beetles, what kind of damage they can do to your cucumber plants, and some ways to prevent and eliminate them in your vegetable garden.
Cucumber beetles are mostly bright yellow in color, have long antennae in the front, and are about 1/4-inch in length. They are winged making it easy to fly around fron plant to plant, and very difficult to capture.
You will find two different kinds of cucumber beetle – striped and spotted.
The spotted cucumber beetle is greenish yellow and has twelve black spots on its back. The striped cucumber beetle is yellowish orange and has three black stripes on its back.
It is very easy to confuse spotted cucumber beetles for ladybugs as they are very similar looking at first glance.
Ladybugs have short antennae while the cucumber beetle has very long string-like antennae.
Cucumber beetles feed on the soft leaves and stems of many vegetables in the curcubit family including cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, and melons.
The biggest threat cucumber beetles possess in the vegetable garden is they can spread mosaic viruses in cucumbers and other plants.
This disease will cause wilting and yellowing leaves, and ultimately death to the plant. Affected fruit can grow disfigured and bitter tasting.
Taking appropriate steps to prevent cucumber beetles can go a long way towards eliminating them from the vegetable garden. Monitoring your plants persistently throughout the season will help you to detect their presence early. This is important for keeping populations from getting out of control.
Most mature cucumber plants can handle a few cucumber beetles without much problems, but if cucumber beetles begin feeding on younger plants it could mean trouble.
You can use insect barrier cloth to cover cucumber plants to keep the insects from getting to them. Unfortunately, this will also block out pollinators so you may need to remove the barrier in the early morning hours to allow pollinators to access the blooms.
Plant flowers and other plants in, and around, your vegetable garden to attract beneficial insects, like ladybugs, lacewings, assassin bugs, and solider beetles into your garden. These beneficial insects pray on cucumber beetles and can reduce their numbers.
These pesticides work by smoothering, so make sure to coat the insect pests with the neem oil or insecticidal soap well.
Cucumber beetle traps can be placed around affected plants to lure and trap them as well.
The cucumber beetle is attracted to the trap, fly over to it and become trapped in and cannot get back out.
Place these traps within three to five feet of affected plants for best results.
If you monitor your cucumber plants each day and stay on top of insect pest populations you can easily get rid of cucumber beetles and keep them out.
The biggest thing to remember is prevention is half the battle. There are also some cucumber variety that are resistant to mosiac virus and cucumber beetles, so check with your local garden center to see if they carry these.
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