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Thursday, July 24, 2014
Pest of the Week- Stripped/Spotted Cucumber Beetles
As with most cucurbit plants (cucumbers, watermelon, squash, zucchini, melons), this time of the year can produce an onslaught of striped/spotted cucumber beetles. These insects are fairly small and tend to hide inside the flowers and underneath the vines and leaves. The beetles are notorious for defoliating cucumber plants. Furthermore they have the ability to vector bacterial wilt which can be a devastating disease for cucurbits.
Stripped/spotted cucumber beetles are in the Coleopotera order and overwinter as adults in debris or nearby wooded areas. The striped ones might also overwinter in the soil. In the larvae form, they will feed on the roots of the cucurbits then as adults go after flowers, vines, leaves, and even fruit. They are noted for their yellow shell with green spots and darker stripes. They also are typically in an overabundance in population.
Once you've got them, they are really hard to manage. Populations can increase very fast. Unlike Colorado Potato Beetle or Japanese Beetles which can sometimes be removed by hand, this pest is very hard to remove. Control for this pest can include using floating row cover. Row cover is a spun-fabric that acts as barrier from insects but still allows for light and water penetration. It will need to be removed once the cucurbit starts to flower though. This technique while not perfect can give your plants a head start so that damage that may occur later on will not be as devastating.
Some growers have also used yellow sticky traps as the beetles will go after yellow cucurbit blooms quite often and the yellow of the sticky cards can trap them. It may not effectively control all of them though but still a useful strategy if it works.
Additionally there are some pesticides/OMRI pesticides on the market such as pyrethrum and neem. The problem sometimes with using these pesticides is that many times the beetles will be underneath leaves or in flowers so as the spray won't be targeting them as effectively.
In many ways, there aren't many control options that can fully address the destruction caused by this insect. The best approach is to potentially incorporate many of these (floating row cover, yellow sticky traps, pesticides potentially). Recent research has also demonstrated that traps crops can be a useful tool although they would still require the use of a pesticide to target the pest.