Cucumber Beetles can be a menace to anyone’s garden. They can carry deadly viruses and cause plants to look sickly and produce less fruit. Flowers and plants affected by these vicious insects show a variety of symptoms ranging from stunted growth to distorted, blotchy-colored leaves.
Find out how to naturally prevent cucumber beetles from taking up residence in your vegetable garden and what to do to get rid of cucumber beetles that are already present.
What Cucumber Beetles Do
Cucumber Beetles are also known to reduce the yield of certain plants, and will announce their presence by making small holes in leaves and fruits. If you see anyone of these signs, you want to be on the lookout.
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Cucumber beetles are a notorious group of pests that can wreak havoc in your garden. Two of their species are particularly notorious; one is striped while the other has black spots on its body. They are known as “cucumber” beetles because they disproportionately affect cucurbit plants. Think cucumbers and melons.
They feed on the fruits but also cause uncontrollable damage to the foliage. Their rapid reproduction rate also proves to be a serious risk to the growth of any vegetable crop. In North America, cucumber beetles are one of the largest pests gardeners and farmers will deal with.
What plants are affected by cucumber beetles
The two notorious species of cucumber beetles are common pests of cucurbits and vines. Cucurbits include a wide range of plants such as cucumbers, pumpkins and melons. Other plant hosts for cucumber beetles include corn and beans crops. They can also feed on apple, willow, and goldenrod if there are no cucurbits available.
The adult cucumber beetles feed on fruits and foliage of the flowering plants and lay eggs in the soil. Soon, the larvae of the adult beetles take over the root system of the crop- devouring them in a matter of days. The beetles overwinter in the soil, only to emerge the following spring, so getting rid of cucumber beetles is important in stopping the cycle.
Tips for Preventing Cucumber Beetles
- Adult cucumber beetles lay their eggs in the soil surrounding the cucurbits. Use a floating row cover to protect the plants against these egg-laying beetles.
- Cucumber Beetles attack plants during their growth phase. If possible, grow plants in late fall; their season of bloom will coincide with frost and harsh winter. Beetles cannot survive harsh winter, and so their population will diminish.
- Instead of growing new plants from seed directly in the ground, transplant young plants to propagate crops. Young plants can stand their ground against the onslaught of beetles, while seedlings cannot.
- Use natural predators of Cucumber Beetles such as braconid wasps and soldier beetles to keep the Cucumber Beetle population in check.
- Use clean straw as a mulch for your plants. This invites cucumber beetle predators to live in the shady area under the straw.
How to Get Rid of Existing Cucumber Beetles
Once Cucumber Beetles have completely taken over your crops, there is little you can do. However, damage control, in this case, is very important. Here are some ways to reduce the population if you see cucumber beetles devouring your vegetables:
- Use insecticidal soap spray to kill cucumber beetles before they invade more crops.
- Neem-based pesticides and sprays are particularly helpful against cucumber beetles.
- Pick them off. Head out to the garden with a jar of soapy water and garden gloves. Pick the beetles off as you see them, and place them in the jar of water. This is time consuming, but for every beetle you pick, that’s one that may not lay eggs in the soil or eat your plants.
Natural Pest Control in the Home Garden
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Cucumber Beetles can be difficult to manage; but with the right tips and tricks up your sleeve, it will be a walk in the park. In this particular case, prevention is much easier than cure. Try to keep your plants safe from Cucumber beetles in the first place, since they become unstoppable once they invade your crops.