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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis
squashbug nymph

Cucurbit (Pumpkin, Squash, Melon, and Cucumber) Insects

Posted by John Fulton -

Cucurbits are basically everything in the squash and melon families. There are several potential insect problems with them, and today's column attempts to help minimize or prevent these problems. The first group of insects is the cucumber beetles. These can be green, black and yellow striped, or black and yellow spotted. These are also called corn rootworm beetles when they are in corn fields. When these insects are in cucurbits, they are usually called cucumber beetles. The importance of the beetles is not that they eat small holes in the leaves, but that the striped and spotted beetles can transmit a bacterial wilt to the plants as they eat. The first thing you see is you have a plant that suddenly wilts on various runners, or the entire plant. The best means of controlling this disease is a good beetle control program. Current homeowner recommendations would include these products with the days to harvest restrictions in parenthesis: carbaryl (0), bifenthrin (3 days), or rotenone (1 day).

Of course, Japanese beetles love cucurbits as well. Their damage is direct leaf feeding. Remember they feed in groups, so once they get started you will have a battle on your hands. The carbaryl and bifenthrin are both good control measures.

Squash bugs are the next problem to discuss. Squash bugs are usually dark gray to black in color and like a long stink bug. Their eggs usually hatch mid-June to mid-July. Best control timing is when the eggs first hatch. Non-restricted products are sabadilla (1 day), which is an organic product that might be a little hard to find, and bifenthrin (3 days to harvest). One last note, if the squash bugs get past their early growth stages then physically removing them is about the only control method available.

The last insect problem on cucurbits is squash vine borers. These borers usually drill into the new runner areas and kill off individual runners at a time. The adult of these larvae are red and black clear-winged moths. Scout your plants and look for the adults, as well as entrance holes and the chewed-up plant material. Treat as soon as early damage occurs and use one of the following products for homeowners: carbaryl, bifenthrin, or rotenone. Days to harvest restrictions have already been covered (and these would also apply to pumpkin blossoms).

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