Cucumber Beetle Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Cucumber Beetles

There are two species of cucumber beetles – striped and spotted. They are different in terms of physical appearance, but they are similar when it comes to their damages. They can be devastating, but if you act quickly and if you know how to get rid of cucumber beetles, it is easy to succeed in controlling this pest.

Both of the species are about ¼ inch in length. The striped cucumber, in its adult stage, has black and yellow stripes in their abdomen. The antenna and the head, meanwhile, are dark. On the other hand, spotted cucumber beetle comes with a yellow abdomen that has 12 spots. In their larval stage, the two look like worms, usually with a white body and dark head. Lastly, when they are eggs, they are light yellow-orange.

Spotted Cucumber Beetle

A Spotted Cucumber Beetle with 12 Spots on Abdomen

Cucumber Beetle’s Habitat

This pest in common in thick turf and decaying vegetation in the garden. They prefer a warmer climate. They overwinter in fence rows and wood lots. They are abundant in mid-spring, usually a season wherein temperatures start to rise. Usually, you will find them from the last week of May or first week of June. During their adult stage, they feed on the blossoms of plants. Meanwhile, they lay their eggs on the ground of the plant where they are feeding. They emerge from the larva in the summer months. On average, it takes about 60 days for the pest to transform into an adult from eggs.

Identifying Cucumber Beetle’s Damage

Plants Affected

Cucumber beetles usually feed on the flowers, pollen, and foliage of its host plant. They are common in plants from the Cucurbit family, which include cucumber, squash, melon, gourds, zucchini, and pumpkin, among others. They also feast on corn, asparagus, and beans.

Symptoms

The following are some of the signs that cucumber beetles are present in the garden or in the host plant:

  • The leaves will show the biggest evidence of the damage from cucumber beetles. You will see holes on the surface. This causes a deficiency in the nutrients that the plant requires for survival. Therefore, it leads to the discoloration of leaves. From green, they will turn to yellow.
  • Plant stunting is also a common symptom. In case you are unfamiliar, this is a condition wherein the plant does not grow fully. It appears smaller than the usual. The leaves will also appear sickly, which is evident in color and vigor.
  • There are also some parts that will look like they have been chewed. This is especially common in the roots of the host plant. Young shoots are also vulnerable to this damage.
  • Cucumber plant beetles also affect the fruit of the plant. In most cases, if the infestation is severe, the crop will look unattractive and no longer fit for consumption.

Results of Infestation

Like in the case of other pests, the damages from cucumber beetles can be devastating. When they feed on young plants, the latter will no longer reach maturity. If they are standing in an upright position, after infestation, they will wilt and fall.

The most obvious from the results of the infestation caused by the pest is bacterial wilt. They will chew on the leaves of the plant and this is the start of spreading damage to the rest of the plant. The bacteria will also quickly multiply, and hence, amplifying the damage that it brings. It damages the vascular system and can also attract other pests that can worsen the problem.

Bacterial Wilt

The Cucumber Beetle Spreads Bacterial Wilt from Infected to Healthy Plants

How to Get Rid of Cucumber Beetles

Natural and Organic Solutions 

Below are some simple solutions for the elimination of cucumber beetles:

  • One of the best solutions is to encourage the presence of natural predators. They are the enemies of cucumber beetles and other common garden pests. Among others, non-segmented roundworms or nematodes are commonly chosen because they can feed on the eggs without causing any harm. Beneficial birds and insects will also be great.
  • It is also good to plant varieties or cultivars that are resistant to cucumber beetles. Specifically, you should choose plants with a low level of cucurbitacin. The latter is a chemical that gives some plants a distinct bitterness. If the level of cucurbitacin is lower, the lesser is the likelihood that cucumber beetles will survive
  • Using floating row covers is also effective in getting rid of cucumber beetles, as well as in the prevention of an increase in their population. Do this before the plant flowers. When flowers appear, you have to take out the row covers to attract bees.
  • You will also benefit from using organic mulches. This will encourage the growth of microorganisms that will deter the growth of microorganisms. It makes the soil richer and improves the defense against pests.
  • Manual removal of the cucumber beetle will also work. This is good when they are already in their adult stage, which will make it easy to spot their presence. Pay attention to the color and other physical characteristics to spot their presence. You can also use a vacuum to suck the beetles from the ground. Make sure to throw them properly and not just anywhere on the ground.
  • You can also use sticky traps. Simply leave them on the ground overnight. The beetles will go through the trap and because the surface is sticky, they will be unable to escape. Discard these traps properly. 

Chemical Solutions

For commercial growers and for large-scale damages, it is common to resort to the use of chemicals. However, this may not always be the best solution as it contains toxic chemicals that will kill not only cucumber beetles, but even other insects. It also harms the environment. Applying the chemicals early in the growing season will make sure of its highest level of effectiveness. Only professionals should apply chemicals and it is also important to wear protective gears. 

How to Prevent Cucumber Beetles

One of the best ways to prevent the infestation of cucumber beetles is to choose the right timing when planting. Do this after the season when they appear. Tilling in late fall is also an excellent idea. This will let you see the beetles hiding on the ground and after this, you can take advantage of the natural measures to eliminate them in the garden. Companion planting is also a promising solution as it will deter the presence of cucumber beetles.

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